Canadians win thriller in shoot-out over Rockland

By: Daniel Vazzoler

The Carleton Place Canadians picked up a crucial two points on Sunday, claiming a 5-4 victory in the shoot-out against the Rockland Nationals.

Carleton Place lost the lead late in the third period and fell behind during the shoot-out. Will Soloway was one of the Canadians top performers on Sunday and his goal in the shoot-out ensured the game kept going. Two rounds later, Jackson Pundyk made the save to make Caton Ryan’s goal stand as the winner.

“We faced adversity on a lot of opportunities and our team needed to be resilient,” Canadians coach Brent Sullivan said. “Our guys battled through a tough week-end. Rockland is a good team, they’re fast and they skate well. So, for us to be able to bounce back after the way we played against Navan and leave here with two points, we just need points at this time of the year.”

It was a rare night where the Canadians struggled in the special teams battle on Sunday. After Soloway put Carleton Place ahead early in the first period, Jordan Prepszl tied the game with Rockland’s first power play goal of the game.

Matteo Disipio restored the one-goal lead with his 29th goal of the season on a play where Rockland’s coach Carl Robillard thought it was off-side. His antics in arguing the call led to a Canadians power play, one of three they could not convert on.

A second power play goal for Rockland tied the game early in the middle period and, with the Canadians leading 4-3 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, a third Nationals power play goal leveled things up and sent the game to over-time.

“We couldn’t get clears. Structure we were fine, it was just those 50/50 pucks, it was pucks going back door where we had to get under sticks and win a battle or any kind of wall pressure. Our guys were just fatigued and we weren’t coming out with pucks,” Sullivan explained the penalty killing struggles.

“Our penalty kill has been good lately, you’re going to lay an egg eventually, I would have liked to see our power play get us a couple to help counter that,” he continued. “One of those nights where we won the game losing the special teams battle pretty bad.”

The positive note of the Canadians having their league-leading power play shut out is the five-on-five play was a force for them. Carleton Place won the even-strength battle 4-1 and had offensive contributions from three of the four forward lines.

The line of Soloway, Mathieu Fehr and Bill Gourgon provided some much-needed energy and offence on Sunday. The newly-formed trio had goals from Soloway and Fehr while Gourgon provided assists on both scoring plays.

“We’re trying to find a way to light up Billy here,” Sullivan expressed. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself to be a guy who contributes every night and he’s struggled to do that since he’s got here. Anyone who plays with Will Soloway usually brings their best because of the intangibles he has. So, we felt, putting (Gourgon) with Will and Fehr, who grind and they work, that Billy would bleed off that. I thought that was his best game since probably his first game in Hawkesbury.”

The efforts from the skaters were needed to get the game into the shoot-out but, when it mattered most, Pundyk proved to be the difference maker. Looking at the numbers alone, it might be easy to say he struggled during the game – stopping 29 of 33 shots – but the pucks that beat him were ones any goalie would have struggled with.

Yanic Crete’s goal to tie the game in the second period was a seeing-eye wrister that knifed its way through the traffic in front of the Canadians goaltender. Pundyk nearly got across in time to deny Nicolas White on the game-tying goal, but he couldn’t get the trapper in place to stop the back-door one-timer.

Then, in the shoot-out, Crete beat Pundyk with a well-placed shot before he shut the door against the remaining four shooters as he baited them into putting the puck where he wanted them to go before taking the opening away.

“That kid’s a battler. In these games, he elevates and it’s one of those scenarios where we’re trying to get him into a mindset of playing every other night and seeing how he deals with that physically,” said Sullivan. “He was good again. In the shoot-out, we see him every single practice taking those reps and we know what we’re going to get from him.”

The win helps the Canadians keep pace in the battle for second-place in the CCHL standings. They sit five points back of the Navan Grads and are now one point the Smiths Falls Bears for third place.

“Two through six is so tight so, what we’re trying to do is create a little separation from the five and six spots and start closing on the two-three,” Sullivan said. “Destiny is going to fall in our hands with us playing Navan and Smiths Falls six more times … We need to make sure we’re leaving games with two points. At the end of the day, I don’t care how, I just want to leave with two points.”

Carleton Place’s next chance to potentially climb in the standings comes on Friday on the road against the Brockville Braves as the first half of a home-and-home series on the week-end. Brockville makes the trip to the Carleton Place Arena on Sunday afternoon.