The Uxbridge Bruins will continue their defence of the PJHL Orr Division championship in the semi-finals against Clarington after a thrilling comeback victory over Little Britain in the best-of-three preliminary round.
“The guys that were there last year, and have that championship experience are really leading the way for us. They’re playing high-character hockey, and when your leaders on the ice are also your leaders on the bench, it goes a long way,” commented Bruins Associate Coach Trevor Cox.
After dropping Game 1 by a score of 4 to 2 in Little Britain on Wednesday, February 12th, the Bruins had their backs against the wall when the action shifted back to the Bear Den for Game 2 on Friday night.
The teams battled for the first goal for more than half the game, with Cam Smith making several sensational saves to keep the Merchants off the scoreboard. Throughout the evening, the rookie netminder would turn aside 64 shots.
Finally, with less than five minutes remaining in the second period, Daniel Giorgio found the back of the net on the power play to give Uxbridge a 1 to 0 advantage.
The third period saw more of the same back-and-forth until an empty netter from Dalton Strongman extended the Uxbridge advantage to 2 to 0. The Merchants stormed down the ice afterwards, breaking up Smith’s shutout bid. But that was as close as they would get, with the Bruins drawing even in the series and setting up a winner-take-all showdown on Saturday night.
The Merchants struck early in Game 3, taking a 2 to 1 lead after the first period behind goals from Tyler Watson and Chris Talman, with Toby Cooper scoring for Uxbridge.
The Bruins buckled down in the second period, tying the game on a Josh Cammalleri goal less than five minutes into the second. Then, less than three minutes later, they took their first lead of the evening on a power-play goal by Giorgio.
The Merchants kept coming after the Bruins as time ticked away in the third period and appeared to score the tying goal as the final buzzer sounded. However, it was determined that the net had been knocked off its moorings, and the Bruins spilled onto the ice to celebrate a hard-fought series win.
The Bruins will now continue their quest to repeat as Cougar Cup champs against the Clarington Eagles, first-place finishers in the Orr Division regular-season standings.
The Eagles edged the Bruins 3 to 2 in the season series, with Clarington eking out a 4 to 3 win in the regular-season finale on February 7th at the Bear Den.
“Clarington has a young, hurry and talented team, and it’ll definitely be a test for both teams,” added Bruins head coach Mike Spataro. “But, it was heart that got us here, and there’s no quit in our team. We showed that a lot against a tough team from Little Britain. We have awesome support, and our fans will definitely be in for a great series.”
The series starts Thursday night in Bowmanville, with the action shifting back to Uxbridge for Game 2 on Friday night. Game 3 will be played on Sunday afternoon in Bowmanville. The Bear Den will be rocking for Game 4 on Wednesday, February 26th, at 8:15 p.m.