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Canadians drop home opener to Jr Sens

By: Daniel Vazzoler

After spoiling a pair of home openers to start their season, the Carleton Place Canadians had their home opener disappointed thanks to the Ottawa Jr Senators.

The Canadians picked up a pair of wins on the road, but Tuesday night’s game ended in a 5-1 win for the defending CCHL champions. In a game that started evenly, Ottawa showed its championship pedigree while Carleton Place struggled to keep up as the game wore on.

“Embarrassing would be the better word,” head coach Brent Sullivan said, describing his team’s efforts. “You want to play well every single night but you really want to play well in front of your fans. This is a first opportunity for a lot of guys to play in the CP Arena, which is a special place to play … so, to come out and lay an egg in front of your fans – not a true showing of what this group is capable of – incredibly disappointing.”

The two teams played a scoreless first period but the Canadians had the best opportunity to get the game’s first goal. Derek Hamilton busted through the Jr Sens defence and drew a penalty shot by getting taken down in behind the defenders. It was a penalty shot that went by the wayside as Connor Shibley turned the scoring chance aside.

When the second period began, Braxton Ross gave Ottawa the lead 5:08 into the frame. Goals from James Taylor and Antoine Gauthier less than two minutes apart in the middle of the period put the Canadians on their heels.

“Once they scored once, you kind of felt the energy deflate,” Sullivan expressed. “Then we were playing up hill against a team with championship habits. Not a game we take a lot of positives from, just try to learn from it and move forward.”

Joe Chambers played an important role in the Canadians picking up the two wins to start the season but, after allowing four goals on 20 shots, Sullivan opted to give him a chance to rest for the final 16:34. While the save percentage wasn’t pretty, much of that was due to the fact Carleton Place gave up some prime scoring opportunities – ones Ottawa didn’t waste too often.

With Jackson Pundyk not available to the Canadians, Almonte-native Ty Ferguson received the chance to come in relief of Chambers and guide the team to the end of the game. In his CCHL debut, Ferguson stopped six of seven shots against.

“Joe was the reason we beat Renfrew, that’s for sure. In the Pembroke game, he came up big in the third period. At that point (Ottawa’s fourth goal), you could just feel it,” Sullivan stated. “You got a local kid in Ty Ferguson, from eight minutes down the road, that practices with us and battles. This was an opportunity for Joe to reset and refocus and also throw Ty a bone. I think it was the right thing to do.”

The schedule doesn’t get easier for Carleton Place as it sets back out on the road to face the Brockville Braves on Friday. Despite the Braves making the post-season last year, the Canadians did win the season series against Brockville. If the Canadians want to get back in the win column Friday, Sullivan said the team needs to get back to using its speed.

“I think our game is built on speed, pursuit, aggression and energy,” he added. “It’s a team built on depth, too, we have to be a team that rolls four lines. Right now, a lot of our big guns are struggling offensively and we had some depth scoring coming in. In saying that, when suddenly your depth scoring isn’t there, we got one goal in the game from Matteo Disipio who, I don’t think, was probably happy with his performance.

“There’s a lot to clean up. Focus on being harder in one-on-one battles and taking more pride in those,” Sullivan continued. “Obviously a lot of video to review this and to prep for Brockville.”

After Tuesday’s game, Sullivan channeled his inner Ted Lasso in reiterating having “the memory of a goldfish” in order to move on and get set for Friday’s game.

Carleton Place will return home on Sunday when the Kemptville 73’s pay an afternoon visit to the Carleton Place Arena.