By: Daniel Vazzoler
The Carleton Place Canadians weren’t in a very loving mood on Valentine’s Day, thrashing the Nepean Raiders 7-0 at the Carleton Place Arena on Tuesday.
Three Canadians goals in each of the first two periods put the game out of reach early and allowed Carleton Place to ease its way to victory in the final frame. The special teams were firing on all cylinders as well – as one would expect with a scoreline like Tuesday’s. The Canadians went 3-for-6 on the power play and killed off all three Nepean man advantage opportunities.
“I’m really happy with how we came out and played,” Canadians coach Brent Sullivan said after the win. “We had a six to eight minute lull in the second period after (Nepean’s) time-out when it was 6-0, but I was really happy with our third period. Message was we get a unique break with six days (between games) so we want to make sure we’re playing the right way going into Smiths Falls.”
Tuesday provided an opportunity to build up some confidence for the Canadians. Facing a Raiders team that sits near the bottom of the standings, Carleton Place took advantage of the match-up and had themselves feeling good after the game.
Six different Canadians had multi-point games, led by Derek Hamilton who tallied a point in each Carleton Place’s first five goals. After a three-assist first period, Hamilton scored two goals 5:03 apart in the second period – the second sending Raiders starter Luca Sandu to the bench enraged in the performance, slamming his stick off the post before seemingly pulling himself from the game.
Hamilton and Matteo Disipio received a new line-mate the game before with Bill Gourgon getting bumped up onto the top line. The grouping has worked so far with the line combining for nine points on Tuesday after the line scored a pair of goals Sunday against the Brockville Braves.
“It’s nice to see that we can play with different guys. Billy’s been good on our line,” Hamilton said. “It’s nice to have a physical role on our line, too. I think it’s worked out well.”
“When we acquired Billy, obviously we know the player and we know the person,” Sullivan explained. “Billy has the ability to drive a line but he was really struggling and then Hamilton, Gino (Colangelo) and Disipio went three or four games where they weren’t playing well. We needed to change something on the road in Brockville, just to try and ignite something and we liked what we saw.
“In saying that, is it a permanent fix? Who knows,” he continued. “We want to make sure we have good depth throughout our line-up. It’s really ignited Billy, which has been a huge part of our team and, let’s face it, Hammy has been our driver since Day One. He and Sips are a unique duo, just the ability to play with pace and skill. It’s nice to see them score but, I’m not surprised, they produce a lot.”
Another strong part of the Canadians attack has been the production from defenceman Brandon Walker, and that continued against Nepean. Walker leads CCHL defencemen in scoring at 40 points in 42 games – a total that has him tied for 18th in overall league scoring – after having a goal and an assist on Tuesday.
“Playing with the guys I’ve been with on the power play makes it a little easier,” he said. “Everything starts in practice and we like to work on game-like situations on power play and it’s been going well.”
The offensive output from the Canadians in the first two periods could have led to the players cheating the systems and structure in place to add to their own stats. Instead, it was a lockdown performance from the Canadians, allowing just seven shots in the final frame to ensure Joe Chambers picked up his second shut-out of the season.
“First of all, we’re thinking about Joe, making sure we play as good as we can so he faces the least shots as possible,” Walker said about the attention to details. “We just have to stick to our habits and what our team is built on and continue to do that, even if it’s a slow game or playing against a weaker team. You just have to think about what makes us successful and keep on doing that.”
The Canadians coaching staff all played at this level, and knows how players can be in games like this. Sullivan said the message of sticking to the game plan was echoed often behind the bench.
“I’m really happy with the buy-in and I was really happy to see the amount of guys sacrificing in the last five minutes too,” he said. “We probably had four or five blocked shots in the last five minutes which, in a 7-0 game, shows they’re a pretty selfless group right now.”
Monday’s game against the Smiths Falls Bears is a pivotal one in the CCHL standings. The Bears have a three-point lead over the Canadians for the number-three seed with both teams having 11 games remaining on the schedule.
“We want to be in the driver seat here. We don’t want to be the ones always chasing, we want to be the team that is being chased,” expressed Sullivan. “We’re climbing here, we think we’re a team that can play with the best of them and play into May.”