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Canadians finally pass the Grads test

By: Daniel Vazzoler

It took three tries, but the Carleton Place Canadians have their first win of the season over the Navan Grads, picking up the 5-1 victory on Friday at the Carleton Place Arena.

The two teams met in the first round of the playoffs last year, a series the Canadians swept, but their success hadn’t carried over to the new season. Carleton Place dropped a close game 4-3 in the first meeting of the season series and gave up for unanswered goals in the third period of the second game, losing 4-1.

“It was a good game, especially since we dropped the first two games against these guys that we bounced back and had a pretty dominant performance,” Canadians defenceman Mark Cooper said following the game. “We were just playing our game more and finishing all of our hits to be hard to play against, driving them out of our rink.”

Along with the strong game physically, the Canadians were supported by their back-end. The defencemen contributed six points, three being goals.

“As a ‘D’-core, we always know the offence will come naturally. We’re pretty offensive defencemen on this team and we always try to focus on our defensive game and I think if we play very strong defensively, the offence is going to come naturally,” Brett Thorne said.

Carleton Place was without one of its top defencemen in Ayo Adeniye on Friday, and that allowed Xavier Jean-Louis a chance to play bigger minutes.

“I thought (he) played his best game all year,” said Canadians coach Jason Clarke. “He’s worked so hard all year long and is was really nice to see him have a break-out game. He’s had some good games, he’s had some okay games, he’s had some bad games but we’re kind of just waiting for him to get over that hump and I think that game was him starting to get over the hump.”

Devon Levi struggled in his first game against the Grads, giving up three goals and ending the game with a sub-.900 save percentage – numbers that are rare for the CCHL’s best goaltender statistically. On Friday, Levi was his regular self as only one of the 23 shots he faced beat him. Alex Robert scored on the 5-on-3 power play early in the first period and Levi nearly stopped it as the puck squeezed between Levi’s blocker and pad before trickling over the goal-line.

Caleb Kean and Elliott McDermott scored for Carleton Place in the first period for the one-goal lead heading into the intermission.

Teams traded chance in the second period before Cooper’s goal in the second period swung the momentum fully in favour of the Canadians. Cooper’s shot went wide of the net before bouncing around the crease and off of Grads goalie Alex Wisco before ending up in the net. Cooper said after the game even he didn’t know how he scored on that play.

“I honestly tried to pass it down low and it bounced off a couple of sticks went off the goalie but it’s nice to get a lucky bounce once in a while,” he admitted.

Thorne and Jake Code added goals in the third period to cap off the 5-1 win on home ice.

Next up for the Canadians are the second-place Rockland Nationals when they pay a visit to the Carleton Place Arena on Sunday afternoon – a game that could be a tough challenge for Carleton Place.

“Rockland is probably the hottest team in the league right now,” said Thorne. “They’re playing really good hockey, we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for the game and make sure we’re mentally prepared. If we do the little things right, I think we’ll be okay.”