On May 3rd, the Ayr Centennials of the Provincial Junior Hockey League won the Schmalz Cup for the second year in the row.
Ayr is a small town in Southern Ontario, Canada -- just west of Toronto. The community of 4,171 people has become near and dear to the LA Kings, as our very own Kyle Clifford is from there.
Clifford reached out to the Kings to see if @LAKings could congratulate the Centennials on becoming back-to-back champions. But after hearing the story of the team, there was more to share then just a tweet.
The Centennials have overcome adversity and challenges in order to become the top team in the PJHL.
Approximately 10 years ago, the Centennials nearly folded until alumni stepped in to reorganize the team. Cody Hall, assistant coach of the Centennials, explained that it was Don and Julie Eby who stepped up to help revive the organization. Since then, the Eby's have had many different roles in the organization, doing whatever they can to give their support and help the players succeed. Even their son, Scott Eby, has stepped in to bolster the team, as he now serves as the head coach for the Centennials.
Clearly, that revival of the Centennials has proven to be a success.
They won the Schmalz Cup for the first time in 2016. Scott Eby explained how during that run to the Cup "the excitement that built up around the team from the comunity and surround cities was unexplainable."
All of Ayr seemed to be behind this team with constant support -- which was pivotal during this year's playoffs.
With one Schmalz Cup under their belt, the Centennials headed into playoffs leading the PJHL in goals (302).
But, as many know, the playoffs are far different from regular season hockey.
In both the semi-finals and finals, the Centennials faced challenges, falling behind in both series. In the semis, Essex lead the series 3-1; and in the finals, Port Hope lead the series 2-0.
Tim Barrie, Director of Hockey Operations, described the Centennials as "a community owned team, and operate as a family, which helped us in stay positive and behind each other when we fell behind."
"All the fans were 100 percent behind us and they never wavered from that, which is a huge boost of confidence for all the guys in our locker room," Hall explained.
In addition to having an entire to town backing them, Scott Eby pointed out that many of his players have "either worn a letter on their jersey or had been on championship teams in the past and knew what it took too be a winner."
With the support of their town and the leadership in the locker room, this team was able to do what many believe is impossible and made an incredible comeback.
On Wednesday night, with Kyle Clifford in the crowd, the Ayr Cenntenials became the back-to-back champions of the Schmalz Cup.
Congratulations, Cenntenials! Enjoy the championships, and know that the LA Kings are behind you in your quest for a third straight Schmalz Cup Title!