The Carleton Place Canadians picked up an all-important 6-3 victory Tuesday in Game Three of their CCHL quarter-final series against the Nepean Raiders to take a 2-1 series lead.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Canadians came out strong to start the second period. A pair of hits from Connor Hill and Adam Donnelly looked like momentum shifters in the game, and the Canadians pressure on the puck ultimately led to them finding the scoreboard.
Donnelly said the physical aspect of the game can turn momentum in that team’s favour.
“If we can play a physical game, we’re going to roll and do what we do as a team – just muck it up in their end and get to the net,” he said.
“In the playoffs, momentum can ride you to where you want to go or where you don’t want to go, so I thought when we just got back to moving our feet and playing hockey the way we like to play – not over-complicating things – it seemed to be a lot better,” Canadians assistant captain Connor Merkley said.
While some of the Canadians players looked at their success in Game Three due, in part, to the physical play, their coach looked at what being physical meant defensively for his team.
“I don’t think that the physical side was a big part for us,” Jason Clarke said. “I think the big part for us was that we were taking time and space away when we didn’t have the puck. If there was a turnover, or they (Nepean) went to the weak-side, we got into areas really quickly. We competed.”
The game didn’t start the way the Canadians, or the majority of the 413 at the Carleton Place Arena, wanted it to as a pair of goals from the road team had the Raiders leading 2-0 after one period of play.
P.J. Heger opened the scoring, deflecting in the Malcolm Arseneau shot on the power play with just under six minutes to go in the first period. Arseneau then added his own goal, his third of the series, benefitting from a collision between Connor Hughes and Tim Theocharidis at the side of the net. Arseneau set himself up on the opposite side and had an open net waiting for him when he got the puck.
Bad bounces have been something Hughes has had to deal with in the first three games of the series.
“It’s tough, but it’s part of my job just to deal with those bounces because I know they’re going to happen and they’re working hard, so they’re earning those bounces,” he said.
While Hughes wasn’t tested much in terms of the quantity of shots he faced in the opening period, the quality of the seven shots Nepean sent his way had him visibly frustrated with the way Carleton Place was playing in front of him as he was forced to make a number of big saves.
“He’s just an intense guy, like most of us are out there, and he didn’t like how things were going. He had to make some uncharacteristic saves for our defensive zone,” said Merkley. “It probably could have been 4-0 after that first period but he made some big saves for us and held us in there tight … You can’t blame a guy for being intense and wanting to win, that’s what you love to see.”
The emotions of their goaltender seemed to wake up the Canadians in the second period as they played with a level of intensity that hadn’t been seen since the first period of Game One. The desperation and physical play Carleton Place had in the middle period led to their three goals in the middle period.
First, Justin Cmunt got the Andrew Dodson pass right in the slot and whistled a wrist shot past the blocker of Marshall Frappier. Just under 10 minutes later, Shawn Kennedy spotted Hill at the back post with a beautiful pass through the traffic in front, allowing Hill to tuck his shot just under the cross-bar.
Zack Tupker put the Canadians in front with 2:31 to go in the second period as a bouncing puck ended up on his stick in the slot and quickly got shot at Frappier, who didn’t have time to react to the shot that beat him on the blocker side.
Clarke called getting the lead before the third period “very important.”
“We needed to respond and respond the right way,” he said. “I just liked the way we moved our feet and when we didn’t have the puck, we were taking a lot of time and space away. I think the best thing we did was how we skated without the puck. All series long, we haven’t really taken a lot of time and space away when we haven’t had the puck, and I thought that was our biggest (Tuesday).”
Balanced scoring was a big part of the regular season for Carleton Place, and it showed up again on Tuesday with six different players scoring goals, and the fourth line of Donnelly, Tupker and Joey Warywoda combined for five points with Warywoda earning first star after his three-assist night.
“We always talk about how, in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who’s scoring as long as we’re getting that win,” Merkley said. “That’s all that matters, personal statistics don’t mean a thing in the playoffs, it’s all about team.
“But you love to see a guy like Adam Donnelly crack a goal in there. He seemed to be gripping the stick a little tight around the net after he came back from injury – which happens – but he had a great tip on that goal,” he added. “Obviously Joey had a great game with some offensive contribution. We have that ability to get offence and get good stuff from all four lines, which is nice.”
“It felt good (to score), but at this point of the season it doesn’t really matter who puts it in,” Donnelly said. “It’s just a point for your team and you’ve got to get going. A win’s a win and we’re happy with it.”
Carleton Place will look to carry Tuesday’s momentum into Game Four on Wednesday night, back at the Nepean Sportsplex, and try to take a 3-1 series lead over the Raiders.
Around the League
* = if necessary
Date in bold = home game for top seed
Date = home game for lower seed
(1) Carleton Place vs (8) Nepean
CPC leads 2-1
Mar. 17, CPC 6-4
Mar. 19, 2:30 p.m. NEP 3-2
Mar. 21, 7:30 p.m. CPC 6-3
Mar. 22, 7:30 p.m. Nepean Sportsplex
Mar. 24, 7:30 p.m. Carleton Place Arena
Mar. 26, 2:30 p.m. Nepean Sportsplex *
Mar. 28, 7:30 p.m. Carleton Place Arena *
(2) Cornwall vs (7) Smiths Falls
COR leads 3-1
Mar. 16, COR 4-3 OT
Mar. 17 COR 4-3 2OT
Mar. 19, COR 6-0
Mar. 21, SMF 3-2
Mar. 23, Ed Lumley Arena
Mar. 24, Smiths Falls Memorial Centre *
Mar. 28, Ed Lumley Arena *
(3) Ottawa vs (6) Brockville
OTT leads 3-1
Mar. 15, OTT 2-1 OT
Mar. 17, OTT 2-1 2OT
Mar. 18, BRO 3-0
Mar. 21, OTT 6-2
Mar. 23, Jim Durrell Complex
Mar. 24, Brockville Memorial Centre *
Mar. 26, Jim Durrell Complex *
(4) Hawkesbury vs (5) Kemptville
HAW leads 2-1
Mar. 17, HAW 6-2
Mar. 19, KEM 5-3
Mar. 21, HAW 4-3 OT
Mar. 23, North Grenville Municipal Centre
Mar. 24, Robert Hartley Sports Complex
Mar. 26, North Grenville Municipal Centre *
Mar. 28, Robert Hartley Sports Complex *