By: Daniel Vazzoler
The Carleton Place Canadians wrapped a weekend of three games in four days on Family Day Monday, picking up a 3-0 win over the Smiths Falls Bears.
It was a show of what the Canadians are capable of when everything is going well for them – even with the current injury issues the group is dealing with. The team is missing its top scorer, Bill Gourgon, along with a number of other regulars up front.
Yet, the offence wasn’t lacking on Monday. In fact, Carleton Place generated a number of glorious chances where the score almost favoured Smiths Falls – thanks in large part to their goaltender, Dalton McBride.
“I think we played really well below the dots, a lot of low-to-high plays, a lot of opportunities to get pucks to the net but we didn’t have a lot of bodies going to the net,” Canadians coach Brent Sullivan said following the game. “You knew it would just take one for the guys to recognize that the game plan was working. That’s got to be our mojo. We have to be a team that out works people below the dots and we have to be a team that has high shot volume.”
Carleton Place outshot Smiths Falls 16-8 in the first period, but couldn’t get one past McBride until the second period.
Gino Colangelo helped create a turnover in the attacking zone with an aggressive forecheck below the hash-marks. The puck came up the boards to Isaac Pascoal, who spun off a Bears defender to get himself right between the circles, before unleashing a wrist shot that beat McBride over the glove side shoulder 1:09 into the middle period.
Monday’s game turned into a goaltender duel, with both McBride and Joe Chambers taking a lot of the focus. McBride kept Smiths Falls in the battle right to the bitter end, showing off his lateral agility on a number of occasions to keep Carleton Place to one goal until the final few minutes.
For Chambers, you could feel the pressure building as his team-mates had chance after chance turned aside at the other end. Yet, looking at his demeanour in the crease, you couldn’t tell if Chambers felt that pressure building – at least he wasn’t going to show it, if he did feel it.
“It’s one of those things where a goalie is on when pucks are just hitting him. He’s not having to react a lot, he’s not having to squeeze holes, he’s just making saves look easy,” Sullivan said. “Joe’s been challenged, I’m not going to hide from the fact that he and I have had some tough conversations over the last few months about his inconsistency. He had to really take a deep, hard look at himself and I’m really happy with how he responded this weekend.”
It’s fair to say Chambers had struggled heading into the weekend. His play in goal had Sullivan opt to put Jr B call-up Jackson Pudnyk between the pipes, and the numbers he put up supported the coach in making that decision. In his five previous appearances before this past weekend, Chambers had allowed three goals or more in each of them, a save percentage below .830 in all but one and played a full 60 minutes in just one of those five games.
Chambers has had some ups and downs throughout the season, but Sunday’s and Monday’s performances make it look like Chambers is riding high right now. A pair of wins on back-to-back days, stopping 32-of-34 against the Renfrew Wolves on Sunday before posting a 23-save shut-out Monday (a combined save percentage of .965), is proof of that.
“When we came back, I wasn’t playing to the best of my ability, that’s for sure,” Chambers expressed. “I was lucky enough to have some coaches that care about me a lot and I took a little bit of time off to mentally reset. I came back pretty strong and it helped too that I got some new gear in the mail, boost my confidence a little bit.”
It took until 17:49 into the third period for the Canadians to add some insurance to the 1-0 lead, courtesy of a beautifully executed give-and-go between Derek Hamilton and Evan Jamieson.
Brandon Walker sent the pair on a two-on-one rush with Hamilton delaying just enough for Jamieson to be an option. Jamieson sent the pass back to Hamilton, and he one-timed it past McBride for the 2-0 lead late in the game.
“Felt very good to get that one,” Hamilton said. “We had some many chances throughout the game, so it was nice to finally get one near the end.”
The busy weekend of three games in four days where Carleton Place went 2-1-0 looks like a warm-up for what awaits the group coming up. It’s a tough weekend of three games in three days, starting with a critical match-up against the Navan Grads on Friday before a pair of games against the Ottawa Jr Senators.
The Grads currently occupy the seventh-seed in the CCHL, with a five-point buffer over Carleton Place and have four games in hand as well. Meanwhile, Ottawa sits atop the league standings, sporting a 28-4-1-1 record as of Monday evening.
“Very busy weekend, so we have to rest up this week, get back to practice and hopefully keep up the pressure this weekend,” said Hamilton.
“We just need to grab as many points as we can before we get healthy,” added Sullivan. “I think that’s something that we can’t ignore is that we had four Jr B call-ups in our forward group this weekend and one of our wins last week (against Nepean) was Jackson Pundyk’s first CCHL win. I think what it is, is recognized our situation and trying to grab as many points to hang in the fight until we get healthy again.”