Article by Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer & N. Schoonderbeek
The Clarington Eagles’ quest for a provincial championship ended up one goal short.
The Eagles had their 2021-22 campaign come to an end on Sunday as they were edged 3-2 in overtime by the Lakeshore Canadiens in the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) championship final.
The match was staged at the Gryphon Centre in Guelph. With their victory the Canadiens hoisted the Schmalz Cup, awarded to Ontario’s Junior C hockey champs.
“I’d rather be out there with the trophy,” said Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer. “And it stings when you go all the way to the end and don’t win but a lot of teams would have switched spots with us.”
The Clarington squad played the final with heavy hearts. That’s because Rebecca Baumhauer, Dean’s wife and the mother of Eagles’ overage defenceman Nate Baumhauer, lost her cancer battle and died early Sunday morning.
The younger Baumhauer played in the championship final and came within a whisker of scoring the game-winning goal late in regulation time. And Dean Baumhauer was in familiar role behind the Eagles’ bench.
“It was important for her for Nate and me to be here,” Baumhauer said. “She left me a note saying that.”
Baumhauer, who doubles as the Eagles’ general manager, was fully aware his players were hoping to pull off a victory on Sunday for his wife.
“They played hard for her too,” he said. “She was on their minds. That’s pretty nice for me. And I respect these kids a lot.”
Baumhauer added he was thrilled with how much the Eagles accomplished this season.
“These kids here took Clarington on a wonderful ride the last couple of months,” he said. “It’s been fun watching some great hockey and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Eagles’ netminder Alex Lepizzera admitted it was tough playing the provincial final mere hours after team members were told about Rebecca Baumhauer’s passing.
“It affects us all in a big way but when we go out on the ice it’s all business,” he said. “It really hurt me personally and I know a couple of other guys on the team because she’s been in our lives for most of it. And with Dean, he’s like a second dad to me so it stings probably for the whole city of Clarington to be honest.”
Lepizzera added it’s difficult to say whether his teammates’ somber mood and their thoughts of the Baumhauer family made a difference in Sunday’s outcome.
“I’m not going to say whether it affected our game today though because I don’t know,” he said. “But it was tough. We’ll always have their back for as long as I live.”
Eagles’ overage forward Brent Lace admitted the grim news team members heard on Sunday did indeed play a factor in the team’s performance.
“Obviously a ton,” Lace said on how much of an effect it had.
Yet the Eagles were just one shot away from winning it all themselves.
“We were right there in overtime,” Lace said. “We just fell a little short.”
Lace and Owen Manarin scored the Eagles’ goals on Sunday.
The Canadiens scored their game-winning goal just 41 seconds into overtime.