By: Daniel Vazzoler
The last time the Carleton Place Canadians and Smiths Falls Bears faced off, back on Feb. 8, the Canadians picked up a blow-out 9-1 win. When the two teams met again on Sunday, it was a much closer game with the Canadians skating away with a 4-2 win thanks to a last-second empty-net goal.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” Canadians assistant coach Steve Maxwell said. “We took it to them in Smiths Falls that last game and we knew they would want to return the favour in our rink.”
Mitchell Larabie gave the Bears the start they were looking for by getting the 1-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game. Smiths Falls ran a play off the face-off in the attacking zone to set Larabie up for a one-timer and he ensured Canadians goalie Connor Murphy had no chance to stop the shot off the Fletcher Anderson pass, banking his shot off the cross-bar and into the net.
Goals 2:27 apart in the latter half of the first period put Carleton Place ahead going to the second period. Peyton Francis provided the screen in front of Jack Ryan and deflected the David Poirier shot past the Smiths Falls goaltender to tie the game on the power play before David Gagnon took advantage of a turnover in the Bears zone to get the 2-1 lead.
“It was just a hard fore-check where I was able to turn the puck over, took it to the net and luckily it went in,” said Gagnon of his goal.
Not only did he make an impact on the score sheet, but Gagnon made his presence felt on the ice with his physicality as well – something the coaching staff has tried to reinforce for him and the rest of the team.
“I try to play as physical as I can. It helps out the team, it helps us get momentum in the game and can get the guys going.”
Neither team could find the back of the net in the second period, but the third period saw Cameron Patton add to his team’s lead as he whacked the loose puck past Ryan off a rebound for a 3-1 lead.
Jacob Shankar made the final minute a nervous one for Canadians fans in attendance, but Smiths Falls couldn’t beat Murphy that one more time needed to tie the game before Reece Bolton capped off the scoring with an empty-net goal with less than one second remaining in the game.
Murphy wasn’t tested often in the opening 40 minutes of the game, however, when called upon in the third period, he made a number of big saves to keep Carleton Place in front.
“I just able to stay to my game plan, that’s something I always do and just kept things simple,” Murphy explained on his ability to stay mentally sharp in the third with the Bears pressing for the equalizing goal. “I knew I just had to do the same thing to get the best outcome.”
“Murphy was a rock in goal for us,” Maxwell added. “He showed why he’s a (NCAA) Division-I goaltender with this game.”
Despite coming away with the victory, Maxwell not-so-subtly hinted the coaching staff sees room for improvement for the Canadians as he claimed Sunday’s win was “our weakest performance since the break.”
The top players were kept off the scoreboard for the most part and the depth of the Carleton Place scoring was forced to the forefront.
“The kids, Gagnon, Patton and Bolton each scored, and that’s what good teams do. When one group is struggling, the others pick up the slack and find a way to help get the win,” Maxwell said.
Carleton Place won’t have much time to fine tune the errors from Sunday’s win as it faces a big test on Family Day Monday as the Ottawa Jr Senators will visit the Carleton Place Arena for an afternoon game.