Article by Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
The Clarington Eagles concluded the round-robin portion of their provincial tournament with another victory on Thursday.
The Eagles downed the Lakeshore Canadiens 4-1 in the match staged at the Gryphon Centre in Guelph.
With that victory, the Clarington side finished off with a 2-1 round-robin mark in the Final Four tourney, which is being staged to determine which club hoists the Schmalz Cup, the Provincial Junior Hockey League championship on Sunday.
Though there was no official league confirmation by Friday morning, it appeared Lakeshore would be awarded top spot following a goals-for, goals-against formula.
Thus, the Eagles were expected to meet the Siskins in a Saturday semi-final, set for 6 p.m. at the Gryphon Centre.
The Canadiens will square off against the 0-3 Grimsby Peach Kings in Saturday’s other semi, which has a 2 p.m. faceoff.
The two semi-final winners will then meet in Sunday’s championship final, scheduled for 4 p.m.
In their semi-final the Eagles will be looking to avenge their tournament-opening 3-0 loss against the host Siskins last Saturday.
“The first game we didn’t play well at all,” said Eagles’ forward Brady Darrach, who opened the scoring in Thursday’s game versus Lakeshore. “We kind of stepped it up here, increasingly got some momentum going.”
Darrach likes the team’s chances of having more success this weekend.
“I think we match up well against all the teams,” he said. “I think we can beat anyone. We just have to play well.”
Clarington rookie forward Mitch Davies, who also scored in Thursday’s outing, said his squad is indeed capable of continuing its winning ways this weekend.
“We had a weak effort against Stayner, came out slow,” he said. “But other than that, I feel comfortable playing any of these three teams in the finals or semi-finals.”
The Eagles are backstopped by Alex Lepizzera, who has been selected as the PJHL Player of the Year.
Lepizzera has been considered one of the Eagles’ aces all season long, providing them an opportunity to win virtually every match he plays.
Davies also believes Clarington has another edge over its Final Four rivals.
“I definitely think our forwards have more speed than these teams but honestly it’s just going to come down to who wants to work harder,” he said.
Davies added defeating the Canadiens on Thursday, arguably the pre-tournament favourites, was a morale booster for the Eagles.
“This game has changed our mood completely,” he said. “It’s really brought us up. It’s a real big win for us.”
Davies was also pleased to see the Eagles score four times on Thursday. Clarington had only two goals to show for their efforts in their first two round-robin contests.
“I think that will lead to a lot more scoring,” Davies said. “We were able to put up four tonight and hopefully keep rolling into Saturday.”
Davies also said the Eagles are not content simply being participants in the Schmalz Cup tournament.
“Oh no,” he said. “We want to win this thing for sure.”
“I really didn’t know anything about this team coming in other than their stats and their players stats,” he said. “They do have three or four forwards with top-end stats, 60 plus points. We were aware of that.”
The Eagles and Canadiens played through a scoreless first period.
Darrach opened the scoring at the 50-second mark of the second period while Aitken gave his club a 2-0 lead just before the five-minute mark.
Aitken’s goal came seconds after Clarington had killed off a prolonged 5-on-3 disadvantage.
“They came up clutch for us,” Darrach said of the Eagles’ penalty killers. “It was huge to get that kill and we just brought the momentum through the rest of the game there.”