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Canadians take the long road to a fourth Fred Page Cup final

Daniel Vazzoler

Things might have appeared bleak for the Carleton Place Canadians after going winless in their first two games at the 2017 Fred Page Cup, but wins in their third round-robin game and Saturday’s semi-final game puts the Canadians in Sunday’s final against the host Terrebonne Cobras.

Carleton Place beat Collège Français de Longueuil 2-0 in the semi-final match-up, getting the better of the QJHL runner-up after losing 2-1 in a shootout in the first meeting. Connor Hill and Alex Friesen both beat Stefano Cantali with laser-like wrist shots over the goaltender’s shoulder, while Connor Hughes continued his bounce-back play to pick up the shutout.

“I thought it was a great game from start to finish,” Jason Clarke, Canadians coach, said. “It’s the best game we’ve played so far since we’ve been at the tournament. We had all 20 guys show up and great goaltending. Forwards played well, defence played well, it was just a great, great effort overall.”

The two teams played a scoreless first period, despite trading a pair of power play opportunities each.

A Longueuil turnover midway through the second period set up Hill as he grabbed the loose puck in the attacking zone on the left-wing side of the ice, behind the defence, and rifled a shot over Cantali’s glove side shoulder.

Friesen added to the lead early in the third period with a shot that was a mirror image to Hill’s – Friesen took the pass from Connor Merkley on the right-wing side and beat Cantali right next to his ear with a lightning fast wrist shot on the short side, getting the puck past Cantali’s blocker and shoulder.

The Fred Page Cup can be a gruelling tournament to get through, and Carleton Place will have to face the full force of its strength for the first time if they wish to lift the trophy for a fourth consecutive time. Their three previous times at the event, Carleton Place has had the benefit of resting on semi-final Saturday thanks to being the top team throughout the round robin.

This year, the Canadians finished third in the preliminary round of the tournament and will have to play every day of the competition.

“Five games in five days is going to be a tall task against a really skilled and fast team like Terrebonne, but it’s just a one-game tournament. [Sunday’s] going to be all about pride, character, desperation and trying to get every ounce out of every guy we can in order to win the Fred Page Cup,” Clarke stated.

Sunday’s final could be slightly more difficult as Longueuil started getting physical against the Canadians and Carleton Place got banged up by the end of the game, but Clarke said he expects the players who played on Saturday will be in the lineup in the finals.

The Canadians will be looking to recreate the start they had against the Cobras in their round robin game where the Canadians had a 6-2 lead halfway through the game before Terrebonne ended up winning the game 8-7 in a shootout.

The winner of Sunday’s meeting will determine who gets to represent Eastern Canada at the RBC Cup May 13-21 in Cobourg, Ont. for the chance to be crowned national Jr. A champions.

The finals take place at 3 p.m. at the Cité du sport in Terrebonne, Que.

Tournament honours handed out in the morning

The Fred Page Cup awards banquet was held Saturday morning where players received honours for their performance in the round robin part of the tournament.

The Carleton Place Canadians had one player leave with an award as Tim Theocharidis was named to the tournament all-star team as one of the two defencemen. The rest of the team was made up by a pair of Longueuil players and a trio of Cobras. Canatali was named as the goaltender on the team and received top goaltender honours as well. Loïc Léveillé from Terrebonne was the other defenceman named an all-star and also took home the top defenceman award. Longueuil’s Vincent Chapleau, along with Terrebonne’s William Gignac and Chad Pietroniro, who was top forward, were the forwards named to the all-star squad of the event. Léveillé was also named tournament MVP.

Canadians extend season another day at Fred Page Cup

Daniel Vazzoler

For the first time this season, the Carleton Place Canadians faced elimination on Friday and they were able to defeat the Truro Bearcats 3-1 to earn themselves one more game.

After losing their first two games of the tournament in a shootout, the Canadians needed a victory over the Maritime Hockey League champions in order to book a spot in Saturday’s semi-final game of the Fred Page Cup taking place in Terrebonne, Que.

“We’re here to win and, you know, we’re doing it the hard way,” Jason Clarke, Canadians coach, said. “This is the first time in the four years we’ve been here (at the Fred Page Cup) that we’ve had to play in the semis but that’s okay. We’ve done everything the hard way all year long anyway, and we seem to persevere.”

In their other three trips to the Eastern Canada Jr. A Hockey championship, Carleton Place has had the benefit of having the one possible day of rest in the event as they had finished first in the round robin portions of the event. Finishing third this year means they will have to play five games in five days if the Canadians want to be lifting the Fred Page Cup for a fourth straight time.

“We just need to make sure we get lots of food in us, lots of rest to be ready for [Saturday],” Clarke said.

The Canadians coach had complained after the first two games, saying only parts of the Canadians performed well, but said he felt Friday’s game was a complete team effort – picking little things his team needs to improve upon moving forward.

“The only thing I didn’t like was some of the penalties,” he said. “I didn’t think the officiating was good today, I don’t the officiating has been very good at all throughout the whole thing but we took four very dumb penalties. We can’t afford to take penalties like that in [Saturday’s] game, that’s for sure.”

A large part of the reason the Canadians have made it thus far this season has been the play of their goaltender, and after Clarke commented on the poor performance of Connor Hughes the night before, he was quick to praise the 26-save game of the team’s number one goalie.

“Hughes was fantastic today. He was definitely the best player on the ice today and that was a big difference,” Clarke said. “It’s not surprising that he bounced back, he’s bounced back every time after a poor performance and that’s what he’s done all year. He’s got a lot of pride and he’s got a lot of athleticism – he wants to win. The bounce back today was just a testament to his personality and how hard he works.”

Will Cullen opened the scoring in the first period with a power play goal on the Canadians first of three chances with the man advantage in the game. Cullen snuck his way in from the blue-line and grabbed the rebound of the pads of Jason Rioux and chipped the loose puck past Rioux’s blocker on the short side.

The special teams for Carleton Place had to be strong as they were tested often against Truro. The Canadians faced 10 short handed situations and were down on a 5-on-3 twice in the game, yet held the Bearcats to only one power play goal from Riley Baggs on a play where a bouncing puck found the Truro defenceman on the far side of the crease with an open top half of the net over Hughes.

“They were fantastic, we had to be. We spent half the game in the penalty box, so our penalty killing had to be good and it was. Hopefully those guys aren’t too tired for [Saturday], so we’re going to have to stay out of the box for sure,” Clarke said, praising his penalty killers.

The Canadians even got some offence out of the penalty killers as Justin Cmunt scored a short-handed goal after serving the two-minute penalty from Cullen’s check to the head minor. Cmunt stumbled in behind the Truro defence, but regained his balance and used his speed to separate himself from the defenders and beat Rioux with a breakaway goal.

Logan Buchanan gave Carleton Place a 3-0 lead 3:16 into the third period with a quick wrist shot that beat the Bearcats goalie from the slot.

Carleton Place played in the afternoon game, so they had to wait until late into the night to figure out who would be their opposition in Saturday’s semi-finals. The Terrebonne Cobras and Collège Français de Longueuil both had a chance at the bye to the finals, as the winner of the late game on Friday would have had Saturday to rest. In the end, it was the Cobras who eked out a 3-2 shootout victory to earn the rest, meaning it will be a rematch of the first game of the tournament as Carleton Place and Longueuil will do battle to see who will face Terrebonne for the title and a spot at the RBC Cup, Canada’s national Jr. A championship, that will take place in Cobourg, Ont. later this month.

Both the semi-final and the championship games are scheduled as matinees with 3 p.m. puck drops at the Cité du sport complex.

Canadians lose in shootout to Terrebonne at Fred Page Cup

Daniel Vazzoler

The Carleton Place Canadians haven’t had the start they’ve wanted at the 2017 Fred Page Cup as their record now sits at 0-0-2 after another shootout loss, this time an 8-7 loss to the host Terrebonne Cobras.

Both goalies faced a shooting barrage – Connor Hughes faced 44 shots in the Carleton Place net, while Jeremy Belisle had 40 shots head his way in the Terrebonne crease – and neither goaltender likely had the night they were hoping for as they combined to allow 14 goals in three periods of play.

“I thought we played fantastic,” said Canadians coach Jason Clarke. “Our team played really well, we just couldn’t get a save and that’s the difference in the game.”

The offence that couldn’t be found Wednesday in a 2-1 shootout loss to Collège Français de Longueuil was more than on display Thursday night. The Canadians had seven players register multiple points – including Sam Knoblauch, Will Cullen and Shawn Kennedy who each had three-point games.

“It’s a short tournament and we just need to focus on getting everyone playing at the same time. Game One, our goaltender shows up but half our team doesn’t. Game Two, our whole team shows up but our goaltender doesn’t. It’s just one of those things where, if we want to continue to extend our season, we have to have everybody show up on Friday for the next game and give ourselves a chance to get into the semi-finals,” Clarke said.

Terrebonne also flexed their offensive muscles in the game as they had five players score multiple points and had three three-point performers of their own – Kevin Laliberte, William Gignac and Loik Leveille.

The two teams were controlled by the officials in a first period where they combined for eight power play opportunities, as the referees looked to set the tone of the game early. The onslaught of power plays led to scoring chances both ways.

Tim Theocharidis opened the scoring 4:40 into the game with a power play goal, ringing his slap shot off the cross-bar over Belisle’s shoulder and into the net. Connor Merkley doubled the Canadians lead with another power play goal, finishing off a cross-crease pass from Andrew Dodson. Leveille put Terrebonne on the board with a goal on the man advantage 5:15 after the Merkley goal to make the game 2-1 heading to the intermission.

Kennedy scored early in the second period, finishing off a pretty passing play between him, Knoblauch and Connor Hill for one of four Canadians goals in the middle frame that gave them a 6-2 advantage at one point.

A pair of goals less than a minute apart from Gabriel Paquin and Leveille turned the momentum the Cobras way before the end of the second period, and a goal from Gignac early in the third brought the crowd at the Cité du Sport Arena to a frenzy as they felt the comeback was on.

Theocharidis scored his second goal of the game to quell those feelings, but Chad Pietroniro scored a little more than a minute later to restore the faith in the Cobras levelling the game.

It took until the last three minutes of the game, but Gignac was able to beat Hughes with a hard wrist shot high on the goaltender’s glove side to make it 7-7.

Terrebonne and Carleton Place found their defensive footing in the 10-minute overtime period of 4-on-4 play, sending the game to a shootout for the second consecutive night for the Canadians.

Once again for Carleton Place, their shooters couldn’t find a way to score and only one player beat Hughes as Eric Leger scored the shootout winning goal by faking a wrist shot before sending a backhand shot just under the cross-bar.

Both teams have important games to play on Friday – but for vastly different reasons. A Terrebonne victory over Longueuil would give them first place in the round robin and would mean they get to rest on Saturday as the second and third place teams would face off with each other for a spot in Sunday’s final.

The Canadians need to pick up at least one point in their game against the Truro Bearcats in order to get third place and a spot in the semi-final game, otherwise their season will be over.

“It won’t be the first time we’ve had adversity, (but) it’s the first time we’ll have a close-out game (against). We’ve just got to get everybody playing on the same page, we need everyone to show up on Friday against Truro. If we do that, then I think we’re a pretty good hockey team,” Clarke reiterated. “Just need 20 guys to play – not 19, not 15, not 10, we need 20 guys to show up.”

Canadians drop first game at Fred Page Cup

Daniel Vazzoler

For the fourth consecutive season, the Carleton Place Canadians are competing at the Fred Page Cup but Wednesday’s match with Collège Français de Longueuil was the Canadians second loss, a 2-1 defeat in a shootout, in their four appearances at the event.

Carleton Place started the game strong, outshooting Longueuil 8-1 in the opening period. Carleton Place had a number of quality scoring chances against Stefano Cantali, but the Longueuil goaltender stopped all the shots sent in his direction in the first period.

The strong start carried over into the second period with Justin Cmunt opening the scoring 0:45 into the middle period. Geoff Kitt used the boards for a bounce-pass to Cmunt, sparking an odd-man rush along with Brent Hill. Cmunt elected to shoot and a Longueuil defender got his stick on the shot, deflecting it past an unsuspecting Cantali for the goal.

After that, the momentum started to sway in Longueuil’s direction.

“I thought we played well in the first period, then after that we did a lot of watching,” said Canadians coach Jason Clarke. “We didn’t move our feet and we didn’t play with the same jam as we did in the first period. We were on our heels for most of the second and third period, but we had a really good overtime.”

Carleton Place rode a tremendous effort from Connor Hughes to maintain their 1-0 lead heading into the second period.

Longueuil continued to control the pace of play in the third period but, again Hughes continued making saves to keep the one-goal deficit in tact. He ended the game making 30 saves on the 31 shots he faced before the shootout.

“I thought Hughes was our best player by far, and their goaltender played very well, too,” said Clarke. “It was a battle of the goaltenders and it came down to a shootout. We missed three breakaways and Hughes made big saves (but) if you want to win at this tournament, you have to play a lot better, a lot more consistently, than we did [Wednesday].”

Clarke knows how good of a goalie Cantali is, after having the Longueuil goalie with him when Clarke coached Team Canada East at the World Jr. A Challenge this season.

Near the midway point of the second period, Cmunt ended up in the penalty box as a result of a questionable holding call against the Canadians forward.

“Everyone can see the video, it’s all over Twitter,” Clarke said. “Referees were definitely part of the game [Wednesday] and they never should be. They need to be a lot better than they were.”

The officiating both ways was something that could be disputed by other coach.

“Let’s put it this way: you’ve got the four best teams in Eastern Canada, (so) you’d think they’d send the best officials to a tournament like this. It was absolutely awful. It could be the worst officiating I’ve been a part of in any Fred Page Cup that we’ve been to in the four years. You can only control the controllable, so we’ve just got to worry about ourselves,” Clarke added.

Longueuil took advantage of the opportunity as Maxime Chagnon poked a loose puck past Hughes after Jonathan Fillion couldn’t get his shot through the traffic in front of the Canadians net.

The score stayed tied after regulation and also after a 10-minute overtime period, sending the game to a shootout.

Vincent Chapleau was the first player to shoot and was the only one to score out of six shooters.

Carleton Place doesn’t have long to dwell on the defeat as they are back in action Thursday night when they take on the host team, the Terrebonne Cobras. Terrebonne started its tournament with an 8-2 drubbing of the MHL champion Truro Bearcats.

“We just need to move our feet, play with more desperation and little bit more jam,” Clarke said of what needs to change between Wednesday and Thursday. “If we do that, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Canadians success leads to large donation from Shaw Direct

The Carleton Place Canadians 50 regular season wins did more than just help themselves in the standings this season thanks to a donation program with Shaw Direct.

The Canadians and Shaw teamed up at the start of the season with Shaw committing to donate $100 for each win in the 2016-17 season. The money raised is going to KidSport, a non-profit organization that helps youth play organized sports who may not be able to afford to play otherwise.

“The work that we do with KidSport is part of a program we call the Shaw Kids Investment Program and it seeks to raise awareness for the great work Shaw’s charitable partners do to support children and youth in the community,” Steve Scharf, territory development in Eastern Ontario for Shaw, said in an interview earlier this season. “It just seemed natural with the Carleton Place Canadians for us to put this together.”

Scharf was at the Carleton Place Arena on Sunday to present the cheque of $5,000 along with Jason Clarke before Game Five against the Ottawa Jr. Senators in the Bogart Cup Finals.

“We thought it was a really good idea to partner ourselves with such a great company like Shaw,” Clarke said when the partnership was announced. “It’s a positive thing for our team and it’s also a positive thing for the community. We know the money is going to be donated back into our community for kids that can’t afford to play sports.”

To learn more about KidSport and Shaw’s charitable program, Shaw Kids Investment Program,  and how to donate to these initiatives, follow the links.

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