By: Daniel Vazzoler
There’s a saying in sports that the best offence is a strong defence.
For the Carleton Place Canadians in Game One of their CCHL semi-finals series against the Rockland Nationals on Sunday, it was the defence who led the offence.
The Canadians won the first game of the series 3-1 with all three goals scored by defencemen, and all three on the power play.
Brett Thorne led the way with goals in the first and third periods and he added an assist on Elliott McDermott’s tally in the second period, a goal that stood to be the game-winner with Connor Murphy stopping 33 of 34 shots he faced.
“It’s always nice to get a couple of goals early in the series,” Thorne said. “Sometimes you get the puck, get the opportunities and they go in for you, thankfully that happened for me.”
Carleton Place had a strong opening five minutes to the game, getting the first goal 3:19 into the opening period, but after that it was Rockland who dictated the pace of the game.
“We had nine days off and kind of chased the game a little bit,” said Canadians coach Jason Clarke. “Rockland was ready to go and their strengths are their speed and puck possession and we didn’t do a very good job (of handling that) in the first period.”
The Canadians held off the Nationals attack in the first period, in large part due to the efforts of Murphy in the opening 20 minutes of Sunday’s game as he faced 15 shots in that period.
“You’ve always got to focus up pre-game and just do everything the same that you’d normally do,” he said about getting ready after the long break between rounds one and two. “We know (Rockland) is a skilled team, so I’m going to see a lot of shots every game and I was prepared for that.”
The one time Rockland beat Murphy came in the first period, with Daniel Menges scoring on a rebound in the slot.
“We lost the face-off and it was a one-timer from the point. It took a weird bounce off my pad and he got the rebound and put it through my legs.”
“(Murphy) couldn’t do anything about it,” Clarke said on the goal. “Our man lost his guy off the point shot, that created the rebound chance.”
As the game progressed, the Canadians started to dictate the game. McDermott’s goal 0:58 into the second period helped swing the momentum in Carleton Place’s direction.
Thorne added insurance in the third period with his second goal of the game, a back-door tap-in to beat Joseph Giacobbo as he was sliding across the crease to try and make the save.
Game One was a physical affair and that is something Thorne said is to be expected when these two teams face each other.
“Us and Rockland have had pretty physical games all season and now it’s just going to amplify in the playoffs to the next level.”
Clarke agreed with his captain, adding the physical aspect of the game will be difficult to continue in Rockland due to the increased size of the rink there compared to Carleton Place.
“They came to play,” added Clarke. “That’s a very good hockey team, we respect our opponent and know how good they are. We know they can play hard, they’ve got skill and it’s a very complete team. We’ve just got to use our strengths and if we can do that again, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
The series continues on Tuesday in Rockland before returning to the Carleton Place Arena on Wednesday for Game Three.