By: Daniel Vazzoler
The Carleton Place Canadians certainly learned their lesson after Tuesday’s defeat and came back on Sunday to beat those same Smiths Falls Bears 5-4 at the Carleton Place Arena.
The efforts of Derek Hamilton, Joe Chambers and other parts of the leadership group helped ensure a repeat performance was not going to happen. Chambers stopped 30 of 34 shots he faced, while Hamilton was named first star of the game for his two-goal game.
“I think it was important for us to come out emotionally invested,” Canadians head coach Brent Sullivan said. “I’m happy with the response from some of our leaders in getting us a big two points.”
Calling the win a “big two points” may be an understatement.
Carleton Place entered Sunday trailing the Bears by eight points in the standings and fourth in the CCHL. Losing the game would have all but crushed their chances of getting the third-seed and could have seen them drop to seventh in the standings.
The intensity, desperation and determination to get the win – from both sides – was evident very early on.
Hamilton opened the scoring just 0:38 into the game, showing off his stick-handling to get Will McEvoy out of position, while both teams were playing four-on-four after a scrum to end the opening shift of the game.
Throughout the practices leading up to Sunday, Sullivan preached the idea his team needed to be a tougher group to play against. Carleton Place sure didn’t back down from the fight, finishing checks when they could, getting involved in the pushing and shoving following whistles and, sometimes, crossing the line when trying to get on the opposition’s nerves.
“That’s a talented group that wants the puck, so we needed to be able to push them a little bit and try to dictate more,” he expressed. “We went a little bit over the line at times, which is probably the reason for all the penalties, but I was happy with how hard our guys played.”
The Canadians’ penalty killers couldn’t complain about ice-time following Sunday’s game. If they did, it may be the rare occasion someone complains about getting on the ice too much. Carleton Place took 11 penalties in the game and held Smiths Falls to 2-for-8 on the power play, including three penalties within 1:17 of each other at the start of the second period.
A game tied 1-1 easily could have gone sideways on the Canadians with that extended power play. Instead, they only allowed one goal and responded with one of their own after killing the last two penalties.
“I’m not happy with how we got there,” said Sullivan of the five-on-three penalty kill, “I was really disappointed in our second minor that brought us to five-on-three. They buried pretty quickly to put us back on our heels. But I was happy (with killing the rest).
“Five-on-three, a lot of it is structure but, a lot of it is also your willing to sacrifice, your details, your sticks, your stops-and-starts, ensuring pucks get 200-feet down the ice,” Sullivan continued. “Killing that off and then, right away, getting back to work and Hammy scoring was a crucial moment in the game.”
The Canadians were not alone in making the trip to the penalty box. Smiths Falls took nine penalties of their own and faced six Carleton Place power plays on the afternoon.
Carleton Place couldn’t do much damage with the power play but were able to convert at an opportune moment to keep the momentum going in its favour. After Hamilton’s goal, the Canadians were quickly on a power play and Gino Colangelo corralled the rebound off McEvoy and deposited the puck into the open net to restore the Canadians lead just 1:04 after Hamilton tied the game.
The back-and-forth affair continued throughout the rest of the second period with both teams reaching double-digits in shots in the period. Chambers ensured he was only beaten the once, while the Canadians got to McEvoy three times in the frame – thanks to an outstanding play on the rush between Loic Prud’homme and Will Bouwer.
Prud’homme froze McEvoy by selling the shot before rolling his wrists and sliding the pass across to Bouwer who had an empty net staring at him for the goal to give Carleton Place a 4-2 lead going into the intermission.
Things got nervy late in the third period for the Canadians. Thomas Haynes and Carter Pilon traded goals within a minute of each other early in the period to make it a 5-3 Canadians lead, which lasted until Conor Ronayne scored his second goal of the afternoon to cut the lead to one with 5:28 remaining.
Carleton Place withstood the Bears attack late, survived a trio of missed attempts on the empty net in the final minute but were given a dose of relief when Haynes took a slashing penalty with 0:20 remaining in regulation.
Part of what made the Canadians successful on Sunday was the fact their top line out-performed the Bears’ top line. Hamilton, Colangelo and Matteo Disipio each had two points and contributed three goals to the win. The Bears line of Riley Thompson-Shaymus Stevenson-Sean James were held pointless – something the Canadians had struggled with before Sunday.
In the three previous meetings between these two teams, Colangelo-Hamilton-Disipio produced a combined five points. James had two goals and seven assists, Thompson had three goals and three assists while Stevenson produced a lone assist in the three previous games.
“They continually are in the conversation of the best line in the league but they needed to be able to out-perform other teams” said Sullivan of his trio of forwards. “There’s been a lot of nights where Hammy and ‘Sips have put up a bunch of points against lower teams. But, in these moments here, when you’re playing (Tyson) Tomasini (of the Renfrew Wolves), Sean James, Riley Thompson, these key guys that are at the top of the list, where you at?
“We challenged them, we looked them dead in the eyes and said ‘you guys better bring it,’” he continued. “Derek Hamilton has been our MVP all season long and that line has been one of the best.”
The Bears and Canadians will meet one last time in the regular season on Tuesday – the third time in a week and fourth in the last two weeks. Sullivan said he hopes the message from this past week has stuck with his team and carries into the final meeting.
“Our guys know how they need to play to be successful.”