By: Daniel Vazzoler
Friday night was a chance for the Carleton Place Canadians to see how they stack up against the CCHL’s top team, the Ottawa Jr Senators.
Despite being down a number of regulars from the lineup, the Canadians kept the game close throughout, but were ultimately on the wrong end of a 5-3 score.
“They’re champions for a reason, the way they play is pretty hard to play against,” Canadians head coach Brent Sullivan said of Ottawa. “I thought there were a lot of times we were on our heels and allowing them to dictate pace but there were also a lot of moments where I thought we pushed back quite well.”
Derek Hamilton continued his point streak early in the first period, extending it to 18 games with a goal early in the first period to give the Canadians the 1-0 lead. Matteo Disipio deflected Jack Kedwell’s shot from the blue-line, which Connor Shibley stopped but the rebound ended up on Hamilton’s stick and he slid it into the net for his 11th goal of the season.
The defending champs pushed back before the end of the period and ended up taking a 2-1 lead into the intermission. Vincent Velocci scored with a quick one-timer on the edge of the crease and Zachary Losier wired a wrist shot past Jackson Pundyk in the final minute of the opening frame to take the lead.
The teams played a scoreless second period but Canadians penalties late in the second period and early in the third proved to be costly.
“Going down on a 5-on-3 kill can’t happen against that kind of a team,” said Sullivan.
Carleton Place hadn’t played its best game leading into the third period, but was never really out of the game and felt a tie game was only moments away. Anton Sorensen scoring on the two-man advantage just 0:41 into the final period quelled some of those feelings.
Joshua Penney brought the Canadians back to within one goal with a power play goal of his own, which is no small feat against the league’s top penalty kill. The Jr Senators had killed 92.9 per cent of opponents’ power plays, but Penney leaned into a wrist shot and snapped it past Shibley for his second goal of the season.
“I was happy with our power play. To be able to get one to get us back into it, like that’s the best penalty kill in the league right now,” Sullivan said. “For us to be able to execute and, not only execute, there were a lot of plays we were making. We were able to create positive momentum out of them which bled into our 5-on-5.”
Ottawa and Carleton Place traded goals later in the third before Velocci added the empty netter in the dying seconds to seal the win for the Jr Senators.
Friday night’s game gave Sullivan and his staff an opportunity to see how his team compares to the elite of the league – and one of the better Jr A teams in Canada. The Canadians, though, were missing some key veterans as Will Soloway, Jacob Ierfino and Owen Brady were all out of the lineup and captain Evan Jamieson left the game early.
“There were times in the first we were not responding well, we just watched our captain go down in the first period, we watched one of our leaders in Will Soloway try to battle through an injury as well (on Tuesday),” stated Sullivan. “If you think you deserve an opportunity, here it is. We were rolling three centres all night, six defencemen and three of them are rookies so there were a lot of opportunities tonight.
“I don’t think it tempers expectations, we have man up mentality and have dealt with injuries for a while here,” Sullivan continued. “For sure makes us not as complete of a team as we are when we’re healthy.”
The health of the Canadians will be tested on Sunday as a physical, almost reckless, team in the Brockville Braves pay a visit to the Carleton Place Arena.
“The Brockville ones are high emotion games. Very, very physical, very chippy,” Sullivan said. “What we need is a full day of rest to let your emotions get in check and then absolutely need a response on Sunday.”