Eagles Secure Schmalz Cup Final Appearance for the Third Consecutive Season

Article by I. Schoonderbeek / Media by L. Glazier & R. Mansfield

The Clarington Eagles have advanced to the Schmalz Cup finals.

In a Sunday afternoon clash that left fans on the edge of their seats, the Eagles soared to a 4-2 victory against the Hanover Barons, booking their ticket to the championship round with a commanding performance. The thrilling best-of-seven semi-final series concluded with the Eagles triumphing over the Barons in six hard-fought games. Four of the six contests in the series were decided by one goal, and two required overtime.

The game ignited from the opening puck drop, with both teams demonstrating their determination to claim the coveted spot in the finals. The Eagles wasted no time making their mark on the scoreboard. Brayden Hicks snapped a centering pass past the Barons’ goaltender 7:52 into the first period, electrifying the crowd with an early lead.

The momentum continued to build for Clarington as Leyton Aitken capitalized on a golden opportunity. The speedy winger followed up on his own rebound, then executed a quick wraparound goal to extend the Eagles’ lead at 15:22, with assists from Ryan Hall and Trent Gaylor.

The Barons refused to go down without a fight, mounting a determined offensive push in the second period. A quick power-play goal breathed new life into Hanover’s hopes at 10:04, narrowing the gap to 2-1. The Barons tied the game up at two on a tipped point shot at 13:27, igniting a frenzy of excitement among their dedicated supporters who made the long trip to Clarington for the contest.

The game was going to come down to the final 20 minutes.

There was tension in the air at Rickard Arena as both teams battled fiercely in the final period, knowing that every play could make the difference between victory and defeat. With the game hanging in the balance, Hayes Bell seized the opportunity to restore his team’s lead. Bell tipped in a Ryan Hall point shot on a power play at 9:43, much to the delight of the Eagles faithful. Nine seconds later, Eagles captain Joe Boice delivered the decisive blow, forcing a turnover to start the play before finding the back of the net at 9:52, with assists from Gaylor and Hicks.

From there, the defense went to work doing what they do best. Oliver Webster stood tall in the Clarington net, sealing the Eagles’ triumph and sending them soaring into the championship round.

For the Hanover Barons, although this season’s journey has come to an end, they can hold their heads high knowing they left everything on the ice.

“It was a very good series,” said Eagles head coach Dean Baumhauer. “Hanover is a great team. To beat a quality opponent like that three games in a row is no easy feat. That team was desperate today, and I think both teams were starting to feel the effects of five playoff rounds and three-hour bus trips.”

Baumhauer had talked about needing to get more secondary scoring from his lineup in the series, and he got it from Hicks, Aitken, and Bell on Sunday. “That’s what we need,” said Dean. “When you’re missing guys like Davies, Klaas and Manarin from your lineup, you’re wondering where you’re going to get goals from. Just an outstanding effort from everybody from our goal out today.”

With their sights set firmly on the ultimate prize, the Eagles will now prepare to face the Lakeshore Canadiens for the 2024 Schmalz Cup. In 2022, the Canadiens beat the Eagles in overtime in the championship game of the PJHL’s final-four tournament in Guelph. This year, the teams will meet in a best-of-seven championship final series. A coin flip will determine home ice advantage in the series. Fans should keep their eyes on the Eagles’ website and social media outlets for schedule updates.