Canadians head into holidays on winning note

By: Daniel Vazzoler

The Carleton Place Canadians capped off the 2022 part of their season in style, picking up a 3-1 win over the Cornwall Colts on Sunday.

After falling behind in the first five minutes of the game, goals from Caton Ryan and Brandon Walker in the opening period proved to be enough to get the victory – along with an empty net goal from Loic Prud’homme to seal the win.

“It was an ugly one,” Canadians head coach Brent Sullivan said. “You could tell our guys were tired, this break is incredibly needed. We looked at this 10-game stretch leading into the break and we wanted to win seven of 10, and we achieved that today, but you could see we were just hobbling in there.”

The fatigue of 10 games in 22 days – of which Jackson Pundyk started seven – may have played a role in the game’s first goal.

After stopping a long dump-in from the Colts, Pundyk looked to set up the puck at the side of the net for his defenceman. Instead, not realizing where the puck was, he put the puck in his own net as it was between his feet and ended up being kicked in as he made his way back to the net.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a goal that awkward. We all from the bench just watched it happen in almost slow motion,” Sullivan said. “We’ve tried to push his mental side of the game and his ability to bounce back and have a short memory. It was nice to see a prime example of one that could have gone completely sideways and he bounced back. He was unbelievable. If you look at it, they did not beat him once.”

Ryan erased the goal credited to Zack Speck-Meek less than four minutes later, making quick work of his chance on the Canadians first power play. A designed play off a face-off win set up Ryan with a one-timer from the top of the right-wing circle that he hammered past Dax Easter to level the score.

Walker’s goal late in the first period proved to be the game-winner. A scramble play around Easter ended with the puck sliding out to Walker in the high slot. The defenceman quickly snapped a shot over the sprawled-out goaltender for his ninth goal of the season.

A crucial part of the victory was Pundyk’s ability to shake off the early goal. Cornwall controlled much of the opening two periods, outshooting Carleton Place 22-13. Pundyk more than atoned for his miscue early as he made 27 saves on route to the win.

“Puds was outstanding,” Carleton Place assistant captain Derek Hamilton said. “He’s been playing awesome for a while now, so it was great to see him play great again.”

The goaltending has played a large role in the Canadians going 7-2-1 in the 10 games leading into the break. Pundyk received Player of the Week honours on Tuesday for the second time this season and Joe Chambers has performed well in goal as well recently, giving the Canadians two options to feel confident in.

“Knowing that the goalies will make saves when we need them to is a great feeling, especially when you have two guys that are both doing super well” said Hamilton.

“We knew this was in him, just he had to get there,” Sullivan said about Pundyk. “He’s in a situation now where he’s earned the opportunity to get those back-to-back starts. At the end of the day, he’s 10-4 and we just want wins. The development of him is nice, nice to see him take the ball and run with it.”

Sometimes knowing a break is coming up can get into the minds of players and have them thinking about being away from the rink for a while and cause a mishap. Instead, Hamilton said the impending break fueled them for the game.

“We talked about it before the game how it leads into the break and it can affect your mood throughout the break, so huge to get the win,” he explained.

Carleton Place can now go enjoy its holiday break and, from an on-ice perspective, rest and recover before the next game on Jan. 6.

“For the last while, we’ve gone into games without our captain (Evan Jamieson), without one of our assistant captains (Will Soloway), without one of our best penalty killers (Owen Brady), without the energy Will Bouwer brings every night and then losing Brendan Walker in the third,” Sullivan said. “Those aren’t just depth guys, those are minute-eaters, key, crucial-moments-of-a-game guys that you look at to right the ship.

“For us to be able to go into games and find ways to win – because that’s what you have to be able to do – happy to see our depth prevail,” he continued.

The Canadians come back in the new year with three road games before returning to the Carleton Place Arena on Jan. 13.