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Lapse of effort costs Canadians win on Friday

By: Daniel Vazzoler

When the Carleton Place Canadians opted for a younger group at the trade deadline, it was fair to expect the remainder of the 2021-22 season would be filled with learning moments for the team.

Friday night’s 4-3 loss to the Pembroke Lumber Kings fits the bill of a chance for the Canadians to learn a lesson moving forward.

The Canadians controlled most of the first period and almost all of the third period – outscoring Pembroke 3-2 in those 40 minutes – but a second period where the Canadians switched off turned out to be the difference, with Pembroke tallying two goals and shutting out Carleton Place.

“I thought we had moments of very good hockey, and then we had moments where we didn’t know we were in a game,” assistant coach Adam Lloyd said. “I thought the second half of the first period was great for us and in the third period we were the better team. At the end of the day, when you don’t put in a full 60 minutes, that’s what comes out and bites you in the butt.”

Friday’s game did not start well for the home team, being outshot 6-1 in the first half of the frame and trailing to Pembroke 1-0 in that time. A pair of hard-working goals from Ethan Woolsey and Gino Colangelo just 1:48 apart swung the momentum in the Canadians’ favour.

The second period could best be described as a moment of youthful weakness. The Canadians, instead of building on the strong end to the first period, looked like a team content with the effort to end the frame and sat back.

Pembroke took advantage of the laid-back group, striking for a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes to take a 3-2 lead.

“I think physicality is a big part of our game, and when we decide to not play physical it really doesn’t help us because we’re not forcing turnovers,” assistant coach Devin Campbell explained. “I just find, when we’re playing physical, we start making stronger plays with pucks, rather than soft chips that lead to turnovers. Physicality drives the bus for this team.”

In the third period, Colangelo added his second goal of the game to tie things up, but Carter Vollett notched the game-winning goal with a deflection at the side of the net with 7:14 remaining in the game.

The Canadians have changed their defensive style recently, going from a zone to man-on-man. The move, according to Campbell, is designed to make the team better moving forward for the rest of this season and into next. That change maybe created some mistakes that led to the third and fourth Lumber Kings goals, but it’s not anything the coaching staff wasn’t prepared to face.

“We knew this was going to happen when we made the switch, that people were going to get exposed but that’s part of the learning curve,” Campbell added. “When you have young players on the team, they need to learn that way. We tried playing a zone, but that almost insulates people too much, and there just wasn’t enough learning going on, as we found out.”

While defensively there were mental mistakes that led to goals against, you cannot fault the effort level from the Canadians in their own zone. Players were getting into shooting lanes when they could, and the penalty killers went a perfect 4-for-4 on Friday.

“That’s the tough part, you don’t want to discount the effort because I do think a lot of guys brought it [Friday] and a lot of guys worked very hard, especially on the kill,” Campbell said. “You don’t want to get too mad at them because you saw effort level in your own zone.

“It’s more pointing out the mental errors and making sure we’re working on that and understanding that D-zone is what wins hockey games. As we found out, it’s two mental errors that take away an entire night’s work in your own end, where you may have had a very good game, but people will remember those two goals.”

Offensively, Carleton Place had their opportunities to level the score – and even take the lead – but just couldn’t finish them. Most notably, the Canadians had a four-minute power play while trailing by a goal late in the second period and had a pair of Grade-A chances that went by the wayside.

“It’s frustrating, especially when we get the looks that we want,” Lloyd expressed. “It’s good to see guys get into the greasy areas and get rewarded. Not every goal needs to be pretty for us and I think, the sooner we learn that, the more goals we’re going to get.

“A lot of the time, we’re trying to make the highlight plays and we’re holding onto pucks and we’re passing up shooting opportunities. A lot of the success we’ve had comes from going to the net and from getting guys down the line-up contributing just by going to those areas,” Lloyd added. “That’s something we need to keep doing and we’ll be rewarded.”

The next test for the Canadians comes on Sunday, when the Kemptville 73’s make their way to the Carleton Place Arena. There isn’t much time left for the Canadians to try and get into a play-off spot, but the lessons that could – rather, should – be learned from Friday’s loss will help in the stretch run and in the years to come for this group.