Eagles Crowned East Conference Champions – Again

Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer

For the second time in less than 48 hours the Clarington Eagles were crowned Provincial Junior Hockey League East Conference champions.

Under normal circumstances the Eagles would have continued their celebrations throughout Friday and early Saturday following what they thought was a series clinching win over the Napanee Raiders on Thursday.

Chaos began on Friday morning, however, when it was announced the Raiders had protested the result of Thursday’s Game 5, a match the Eagles won 4-1, and that PJHL officials ruled in Napanee’s favour, necessitating the replay of the entire contest.

Knowing a discontinued rule – a bench minor at the start of the game for not getting off the ice in a timely fashion following warmups – was used against them, the Raiders protested Thursday’s outing.

Thus, the two clubs replayed Game 5 in its entirety on Saturday, with the Eagles hosting the match at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.

Hoping to duplicate their success from Thursday, Clarington did just that, downing the Raiders 4-3 on Saturday to clinch the best-of-seven series in five games.

Eagles’ coach Dean Baumhauer was rather annoyed his charges were forced to play Game 5 again because of an officiating screwup.

Nonetheless, he wasn’t pleased the Raiders protested Thursday’s result, which included Clarington scoring in the opening minute on the powerplay they were assessed to start the game.

“As for me, if I’m coaching, the call was made wrong by the refs,” Baumhauer said. “I understand that and unfortunately we scored on our powerplay I guess. If I’m a coach and I lose four games to one and I lose 4-1 convincingly, outshot 55-32 in that game, I’m saying I don’t think I want to go down that path.”

Plus, Baumhauer doesn’t think he was the only one who was not in favour of replaying Game 5 from the start.

“And I could tell their kids probably didn’t want to either,” he said. “I know my kids wouldn’t.”

Now the Eagles can officially put the Raiders in their rear-view mirrors and move on to their next challenge – the Final Four tournament for the provincial Junior C title, the Schmalz Cup.

“Even today it was hard to get our guys back re-energized and refocused,” Baumhauer said. “We all went out Thursday night and closed our sponsor’s pub. So, we were like some hungover troops here. But nothing is easy.”

Everybody on the Eagles’ roster knew they had to get the job done Saturday as they certainly didn’t want to head back to Napanee on Sunday for a possible Game 6.

“Right before the game we were still thinking it was a joke that they protested it,” said Eagles’ rookie forward Hayes Bell, who scored once and added an assist on his linemate Jordan Shaw’s game-winning goal.

Also scoring for Clarington were Brady Darrach and Matt McCullough.

Instead of coming out flying on Saturday the Eagles were somewhat tentative and Napanee managed to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Despite that early deficit, the Eagles came back and scored twice in the opening 20 minutes.

“Everybody knew it wasn’t the players’ fault the game got recalled,” Shaw said. “We didn’t want to take it out all on them. We just came back as a team, had a good warmup, came in, just talked as a team and we were told to relax and get the win and we’ll get out of here.”

Recently it’s been Shaw and Hayes and their linemate Owen Manarin earning plenty of praise.

“Shaw, Manny and me – we could feel it out there and we’re talking to each other on the bench,” Bell said. “We’re up on the bench. And this isn’t anything that we’ve felt before, especially our line. We hadn’t got much ice time and now we’re getting top minutes and we’re producing. Can’t complain.”