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Canadians ready for start of regular season

By: Daniel Vazzoler

After spending the last two weeks refining the roster, introducing schemes and strategies and getting back up to game speed, the Carleton Place Canadians are ready to get the 2021-22 CCHL season started.

Carleton Place took part in three pre-season games, losing the first two but gaining confidence with a win on Sunday to finish the tune-up games, and look ready to go for Thursday’s matchup with the Cornwall Colts.

“It was a good couple of weeks,” head coach Brent Sullivan said of his first training camp at the helm of the Canadians. “Obviously it was a different game (Sept. 12) against Smiths Falls, played a lot of the younger kids – a lot of the Jr B guys and a couple of our incoming recruits. These last two games were interesting against Wellington.”

Calling the Wellington games “interesting” may be an understatement with just how different the games looked – even though the rosters were nearly identical.

Sullivan called Friday’s game in Wellington against the Dukes of the OJHL a chance for his team to “shake off the rust” and it showed. Despite an advantage in shots and opportunities, turnovers and running around in the defensive end of the ice ultimately led to a 3-1 loss for the Canadians.

There were a handful of moments in the game where players may have been lacking some feel with the puck, as shots from high scoring areas were hitting Dukes goalie Matt Dunsmoor square in the chest.

That changed in a big way with a return to the Carleton Place Arena on Sunday.

An early 2-0 deficit was quickly erased with six unanswered goals by the Canadians – three from Bill Gourgon and three from Jake Code – before the end of the opening period. The offence continued flexing its muscle, scoring in bunches and showing the prowess with the extra man, en route to a 12-5 over Wellington – who ranked fourth in the first CJHL rankings of the year.

“I think we learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout the game on Friday and again (Sunday), some of them weren’t as fun as others, but I’m proud of our group and how we bounced back,” Code said. “We could have used a lot of excuses for how Friday went, but we’re just trusting our game plan and the guys in the room to do the right thing on a daily basis and I think we did that. There’s still some areas to improve but it was a good step forward.”

The scoring output on Sunday, after essentially being shut-out on Friday – the one goal coming near the final minute of the game – should help the confidence of the team, Gourgon said.

“(Sunday) shows that we can score, I don’t think offence is a weakness of our team and gives us a lot of confidence,” he added.

With this being his first training camp in charge, Sullivan opted for a lighter schedule in terms of pre-season games. The three games played were tied for the fewest in the CCHL, but the head coach said there was a method to the madness.

“I wanted more practice time. I wanted an opportunity to be able to sit down and actually teach,” he explained. “We’re a back-half heavy schedule this year and there’s a reason behind it. For me, I wanted more opportunity to teach the guys at practice. I wanted them to get to know our strength and conditioning coach Zach Yantha and learn from him. There was a change this month (from previous camps) but there was some thought behind it.”

The regular season gets underway on Thursday with a visit to Cornwall, with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Carleton Place has their home opener on Sunday against the Kemptville 73’s, a 3 p.m. start at the Carleton Place Arena.