Hill-Francis-Hopkins line helps Canadians shut out Bears

By: Daniel Vazzoler

The Carleton Place Canadians weren’t kind hosts to the Smiths Falls Bears Sunday afternoon as the Canadians shut out their rivals 5-0 and limited the Bears to just 17 shots in the game.

The line of Connor Hill, Peyton Francis and Haydn Hopkins put Carleton Place ahead early in the game with Hill scoring 4:06 into the first period, showing off his stick-handling ability to open up half the net for his shot. Hopkins scored with 7:26 left, one-timing the Hill pass past Kyle Renaud for a 2-0 lead. Along with their goals, Hill and Hopkins got assists on each other’s goals and Francis also earned assists on both goals.

“Francis has done a really good job of stepping up and being a real good player on that line,” said Canadians coach Jason Clarke. “I think he’s responded really well to the ice-time he’s received and it’s good to see.”

Hopkins added the physical play from him and Hill helped with the success of that line in recent games, as well as the increased speed element from Francis.

“We’re both physical players and ‘Franny’ coming in has been really good,” Hopkins continued. “A good two-way guy, gets us the puck and, again, Hill’s a big boy who uses his body, I like to use my speed and body so I think it’s a good combination of tenacity and skill.”

Geoff Kitt and Aidan Girduckis scored goals in the second period to extend the lead to 4-0 going to the third period, where Ben Tupker wrapped up the scoring late in the game. Michael Leach spent a lot of Sunday’s game watching it, but he was ready when tested as he stopped all 17 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season.

Kitt said he and his team-mates powered through any fatigue they might be feeling after a busy week-end of hockey for some and were able to win the battles in order to get the win on home ice.

“Practice this week was tough,” the Canadians captain added. “We’re on a winning streak but ‘Clarkie’ still expects the best out of us every game and he wasn’t happy with our game against Navan, so we battled hard against each other in practice. If we can battle hard against each other, then we can battle hard against anyone.”

“There was a lot of sweat, a lot of physical play during practice and guys were ready to go,” Clarke added. “It was good for them to respond and anytime during a week-end that you can outscore your opponents 10-1 in two games obviously you’re doing a lot of things right. Our philosophy has always been you play the way you practice, and our practice dictated what our play was like all week long.”

Carleton Place next plays the Navan Grads on Friday at the Carleton Place Arena and, according to Kitt, the team knows what led to a bit of a poor performance despite picking up the win as he said the players need to be better prepared for the game.

“We knew we were up against Navan and I felt some of the guys took it easy and they thought we were just going to win the game,” Kitt expressed. “Navan’s a good team when they play hard, any team’s a good team on any given night, and they’re going to give us their A-game so we’ve got to be ready at all times.”