Heartbreak for Clarington Eagles in Schmalz Cup final


Published May 15, 2022 at 7:49 pm

The end was sudden for the Clarington Eagles, who were one shot away from capturing the Schmalz Cup.

The Eagles and Lakeshore Canadiens went to overtime in the Schmalz Cup final in Guelph on Sunday, with the Ontario Junior C hockey championship up for grabs. Alas for the Eagles, who had fought back to tie the game twice, Lakeshore had the early jump and got the cup when captain Dylan Weston scored 41 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 Canadiens victory.

The goal ended a run that comprised 24 games over exactly two months. The Eagles’ playoff opener was on March 15.

Facing a team which had only three defeats in the entire playoffs, Clarington fought back all day. Owen Manarin scored a third-period tying goal for the Eagles, and alternate captain Brent Lace also got a late second-period tally.

Goalie Alex Lepizzera, in the course of a 27-save game, had the added pressure of facing two penalty shots in the same game. He stopped Lakeshore’s Bryce Scarlett on the first to keep Clarington’s deficit at one goal 8:16 into the second, but the Canadiens’ Jake Nimmo went backhand-to-forehand to score for Lakeshore 3:16 into the third.

The Eagles had a 32-30 edge on the shot counter, and a 7-3 margin in power plays. But they could only score once with the player advantage. Lakeshore goalie Romano Liburdi saved 30-of-32 shots.

The victory brings Lakeshore their fifth Schmalz Cup, but first since 1995, when their geographical locale was Belle River. Clarington boasts two Schmalz Cups, as the Bowmanville Eagles) in 1979 and 1981.

This iteration of the Eagles, under coach-general manager Dean Baumhauer, went 19-5 in the playoffs. Forward Dawson Manning also finished as the top playoff scorer with 17 goals and 36 points in 23 games. Captain Mitchell Doyle was the top defenceman scorer, with five goals and 27 points.

The run included defeating the Stayner Siskins 4-1 in the semifinal on Saturday. Hayes Bell had three assists for Clarington in the semifinal win. Manarin, Mitchell Davies, Jordan Shaw and Carter Watkins scored the goals.

Watkins, with his first of the playoffs, teed up by a primary assist from Bell, scored on the power play goal for a 3-1 lead just past the midpoint of the second. Manarin scored 43 seconds later to put Clarington on cruise control.

The Grimsby Peach Kings, from the Hamilton-Niagara area, lost 5-0 against Lakeshore in the other semifinal.

The Eagles’ run started on March 15. They swept the Port Perry MoJacks 4-0 in the first round of Orr Division stage playoffs.

They needed five games in Round 2 to best the North Kawartha Knights. Nathaniel Stirling scored the series winner in a third-period comeback in the closeout game.

Next, the Eagles swept the Little Britain Merchants 4-0 to advance out of the Orr Division tier of the playoff bracket. All four contests were one-goal games.

In the fourth round, Clarington earned a 4-1 series win against the Napanee Raiders, guaranteeing a new Schmalz Cup champion. Napanee won the Schmalz Cup in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic paused the annual playdowns for two seasons.

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