By: Daniel Vazzoler
The Carleton Place Canadians battled the Ottawa Jr Senators on Sunday, but couldn’t battle long enough as they fell 4-1 to the Jr Senators.
With the score tied 1-1 in the third period, the Canadians had a trio of power play opportunities to try and take the lead over the league-best Jr Senators. Instead, Carleton Place couldn’t convert on the man advantage and a missed assignment at the end of a power play led to Simon Isabelle scoring on a breakaway straight out of the penalty box with 2:15 remaining in the third period.
“When you have the puck on your stick in a 1-1 game, in the third period, and you get three power plays, you’ve got to capitalize,” Canadians head coach Brent Sullivan said. “At the end of the day, it’s just a bone-head mistake with a couple of minutes left that cost us the game.”
Leading up to the final three minutes of the game, Sunday may have been the Canadians’ best game of the season. They were physical, battled and managed to stifle a high-powered Ottawa offence – for 57 minutes.
“It was the most complete, competitive game we’ve played,” said Sullivan. “I think we may have had moments where we’ve possessed the puck more offensively, or our power play was clicking better but, I think, from just trying to ignite some competitiveness, this was the best game we’ve played. Being able to push back physically and being able to establish a presence was very noticeable.
“It wasn’t one of those post-game reactions where you go in kicking and screaming because you knew, emotionally, they were there,” he added. “It’s just mental mistakes that continue to happen.”
The final minutes of both games on the weekend were tough for Carleton Place, as the Canadians lost on Friday night against the Rockland Nationals with the final goal coming with 0:58 remaining in the game. Both goals, according to Sullivan, the result of some defensive miscues that allowed the opposition to get the victory.
“We chatted as a coaching staff saying that you can swallow that a little bit better if (the opponents) really grinded out the game-winning goals against us,” Sullivan explained. “To hand over, in the last two games, a two-on-one and a breakaway as the game-winners, it’s just mental mistakes.”
The Canadians struck first late in the opening period with a power play marker from Jake Code. The competitive edge Carleton Place had in the first period came to fruition in the lead up to the goal, as Code battled to ensure Ottawa couldn’t clear the zone and then the pressure from Caleb Kean forced a turnover in behind the net.
A quick pass across the crease gave Code the one-time opportunity to beat William Desmarais and give the Canadians the 1-0 lead to end the period – despite being outshot 10-3 in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Midway through the second period, Braxton Ross tied the game as the Jr Senators were the recipients of a fortuitous bounce. Massimo Gentile’s original shot was blocked by the Canadians defence and Joe Chambers couldn’t get himself reset in time to stop the one-timer from Ross following Gentile’s pass on the second effort.
Ultimately, Isabelle decided the game after stepping out of the penalty box and taking the Julian Recine stretch pass in on a breakaway against Chambers. The Canadians goalie tried to reach back as Isabelle made the move around Chambers, but left enough room for the Jr Senators forward to reach around Chambers and tuck the puck into the net.
“There are numbers on a board that are very obvious to read, you need to know if a guy is coming out (of the penalty box),” reiterated Sullivan. “It’s a mistake that can’t happen, and these mental mistakes are what’s costing us at this point.”
Carleton Place got burned with two empty net goals – one from Philippe Jacques and the other from Vincent Velocci – as the Canadians tried to push for an equalizing goal to wrap up the scoring.
Despite the negative ending to Sunday’s game, Sullivan pointed out the fact some positives from the game. Take away the two empty net goals, Carleton Place limited Ottawa to less than half of their average goal total – the Jr Senators averaged 4.5 goals per game heading into Sunday. Also, the Canadians may have found the recipe for success – or, more accurately, played the way the coaches have been wanting the team to play the entire season.
“If we want to be a competitive hockey club, we need to be more physical than guys, we need to wear guys down and we need to establish a good forecheck to create turnovers,” Sullivan elaborated. “It’s been a recipe we’ve discussed since Day One. However, every single game we’ve stepped away from that recipe and what you need is a full buy-in.
“I was very happy to see our guys buy in for 57 minutes but the game isn’t 57 minutes long, it’s 60,” he continued. “Against a good team, you ease off the gas and they’ll capitalize.”
The test for Carleton Place will be to see if it the play from the majority of Sunday will carry into the weekend with games against the Cornwall Colts this upcoming Friday and the Smiths Falls Bears on the following Sunday.