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Canadians stave off Braves comeback efforts

By: Daniel Vazzoler

Things were going smoothly for the Carleton Place Canadians heading into the final frame, but they had to hold on in the end to get a 6-4 win over the Brockville Braves Sunday afternoon.

Carleton Place had a 4-0 lead less than two minutes into the third period, but it took a pair of empty-net goals for the Canadians to maintain the lead come the final buzzer.

“It was a great 45 minutes,” Canadians coach Brent Sullivan said. “It’s a young group, they have to learn to stay with it, stick to what got them to the 4-0 scenario. But, overall, a win’s a win at this point of the year.”

The Canadians struggled against Brockville in a weekend series against the Braves on Mar. 11 and 13 – with both games being in Brockville – as they were shut out a combined 7-0 in the games. The return to home-ice helped the Canadians find their scoring touch, with three goals coming on 21 shots in the first two periods.

“We have the ability to score, it’s just a matter of consistently getting into the right areas,” said Sullivan. “Being able to recognize when to get to the dirty areas to score is crucial for our group.”

Matteo Disipio opened the scoring by doing just that, converting a rebound sitting on the edge of the crease in front of Brandon Abbott after a strong shift from the Canadians. Getting pucks and bodies to the front of the net paid off on the 4-0 goal with Brandon Walker following up on a missed chance by Marco Iozzo, with Walker snapping a shot into the top corner past Abbott.

Joe Chambers had another strong performance in goal for Carleton Place. He stopped all 16 shots he faced in the opening two periods and, with the Braves pushing to level the score, made another 14 stops in the third period.

After the Braves made it a 4-2 game with goals 1:27 apart early in the third, Sullivan called a time-out to address some of the decision making going on in front of Chambers that played a role in the shut-out bid coming to an end.

“These games against Brockville always have high emotion. We got a little too loose on the bench, that’s why the time-out was real quick. You could feel the bench slipping a little bit,” Sullivan explained.

The reset worked as the scoring was put to a halt for the majority of the final frame, picking back up when Devin Pimm banked in a long shot from the Canadians’ zone into an open net – a goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Another pair of goals from Brockville made it a one-goal game in the final minute, but Chambers and the rest of the team’s defensive efforts put the comeback to a halt before adding another empty-net goal.

For the Canadians, the win helped erase Friday’s lackluster performance. The Canadians traveled to face the Kemptville 73’s and were handed a 4-1 loss. The offensive prowess the Canadians showed on Sunday didn’t make the trip on Friday, as the team mustered a total of 11 shots in the loss.

So, bouncing back in the way they did on Sunday was a good sign of development for the Canadians.

“The moves I made in January, we knew what we were going to be. Did we think it was going to be this hard, and have to deal with the injuries and the COVID and all the stuff that hit us? No, you can’t predict that,” said Sullivan.

“But I think that group needs to recognize that you have to bring it every single night. Kemptville, in their rink, is a tough team to play against. That was a hard game and we laid an absolute egg. Then, coming in against one of the hottest teams in the league, mentally they had to re-engage. It’s pretty easy as a bunch of young guys in this league to have a lot self-doubt when things aren’t going your way. We’re just trying to help them learn how to mentally reset and have a 0-0 mindset going into each shift.”

That level of perseverance and that mentality will be required for the Canadians as they head down the stretch. Just seven games remain in the regular season for Carleton Place and it trails the eighth – and final – playoff spot by six points at the end of Sunday.

The Canadians have a pair of roads games this week, with trips to Hawkesbury and Cornwall on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, before ending the season with four of five games at home. Carleton Place still has a shot at making the playoffs but, after the final regular season game on Apr. 2, the Canadians will be watching the action around the league with games going until Apr. 10.