Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
Bring on Round 2.
The Clarington Eagles can now start focusing on their next playoff opponents, who will more than likely be the North Kawartha Knights.
That’s because the Eagles managed to bring the Port Perry MoJacks’ 2021-22 campaign to an end on Tuesday night.
Clarington downed the visiting MoJacks 5-2 in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) match held at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
With the win, the Eagles swept their best-of-seven, opening-round playoff series 4-0.
Clarington now advances to a best-of-seven PJHL Orr Division semi-final series. Dates for that series were not immediately known following the sweep against the MoJacks. But it’s expected it could begin next Tuesday (Mar. 22) in Clarington.
The Eagles are fully expecting to square off against the Knights, who had an opening-round bye.
The Eagles will have home-ice advantage in their semi-final series, regardless of their opponent.
The only way Clarington would not meet North Kawartha in the next round is if the Georgina Ice, which finished in seventh place, the basement of the divisional standings, knocks off the top-seeded Little Britain Merchants in their opening playoff series.
The Merchants lead that best-of-seven affair 3-1 with Game 5 scheduled for Wednesday in Little Britain.
Both the Merchants and Eagles opted to turn down the opening-round bye. As a result, the North Kawartha squad was forced to take the bye and wait on the sidelines until the divisional semis commence.
“It feels unreal, electric,” said Eagles’ rookie forward Jake Lemere, describing his game-winning goal on Tuesday, with just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
Lemere’s marker, into an empty-net via a rebound off a shot from the point from defenceman Nate Baumhauer, came at a crucial time. That’s because the MoJacks had some momentum having scored a pair of early third-period goals to tie the game at 2-2.
Lemere realizes the Eagles, who handily outshot Port Perry 71-31 in the series finale, will in all likelihood face a stiffer challenge against the Knights, if indeed that is their next rival.
“The next series will be tougher,” Lemere said. “North Kawartha is a physical and strong team. We’ll celebrate this win, then regroup and get back to practice on Thursday.”
Following Lemere’s game-winner, Nate Stirling added an insurance goal while the Eagles were enjoying a 5-on-3 powerplay, with just over six minutes left in the contest.
Clarington rookie forward Mitch Davies then sealed the deal with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Like Lemere, Eagles’ blueliner Nolan Matheson, who assisted on Davies’ goal, believes his squad will face a more formidable foe in the North Kawartha club.
“I think it’s going to be a hard series,” Matheson said.
Matheson is hoping the Eagles will have a slight edge since they declined the first-round bye and already have four post-season matches under their belts.
“I think we’ll be in game shape and ready to go,” he said.
Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer was obviously pleased his troops were able to wrap up their series against the MoJacks on Tuesday.
Clarington’s bench boss, who had criticized the Port Perry coaching staff and squad for its undisciplined play in Game 3, was glad to see the two clubs stick to playing hockey on Tuesday.
“I thought their team really worked hard tonight,” Baumhauer said.
The Eagles’ coach also realizes things will only get tougher for his team from now on.
“We’re going to face adversity in the next round,” he said. “We’re not going to sweep every series.”
Additional Photos by Chris Archer: