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Special teams help Canadians bounce back with win

By: Daniel Vazzoler

Saturday’s 5-3 win for the Carleton Place Canadians was a welcome sight for the team after a tough previous week.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period to the Navan Grads, the Canadians special teams helped spark a second period comeback. Three unanswered goals in the middle frame gave Carleton Place the lead going into the third period.

“Going down two in the first period, I think it was a real ‘gut check’ call and I was happy the guys responded well because they put in a lot of work this week,” Canadians coach Brent Sullivan said. “There was a lot of time for guys to look themselves in the mirror, a lot of accountable moments, so just happy with the bounce back.”

Carleton Place went 0-3 in its last three games, not looking good for large portions of that stretch, and that led to a tough week of practice in preparation for Saturday’s meeting with the Grads.

When the Canadians fell behind to Navan – a team that entered the season as the fifth-ranked group in the CJHL – it was looking like it might be more of the same for Carleton Place. A second goal allowed and being outshot 17-3 in the opening frame didn’t paint a prettier picture.

But a quick goal from Kerfalla Toure in the second period helped swing momentum in the Canadians’ favour. Power play goals from Bill Gourgon and Jake Code 1:17 apart gave Carleton Place the 3-2 lead before the midway point of the period.

The officials kept busy in the second period as the two teams traded eight penalties – four to Navan and Carleton Place respectively – and throughout the game as well. Carleton Place kept Navan in check when the Canadians were down a man, limiting the Grads to a 1-for-11 night on the power play. The special teams success carried over the other way as well, with Carleton Place going 2-for-5 when up a man.

“It truly showed the depth in our team, a lot of guys kill penalties, a lot of guys are on the power play and we didn’t play a lot five-on-five, but it shows the strength and depth in our group,” Carleton Place captain Jake Code said.

As simple and cliché as it sounds, both Sullivan and Code credit the hard work from practice the previous week and following the systems as they’re drawn up to the success of the power play and penalty kill on Saturday.

“Our penalty kill, we made a lot of adjustments after the Ottawa (Jr Senators) game,” Sullivan stated. “We were trying an aggressive penalty kill, where now it’s more about jumping on opportunities and not giving them much.”

After giving up the lead early in the third period, it was the penalty kill that gave the Canadians the lead courtesy of Code’s highlight reel goal.

He stole the puck at his defending blue-line before racing past a pair of Grads defenders to gain the attacking zone. Code then deked the same defenceman three times before beating Ben West on the rebound.

Caleb Kean added some insurance in the latter half of the third period to help seal the victory for Carleton Place.

With the Canadians going short-handed 11 times in the game, goaltender Joe Chambers had a busy evening as he faced a total of 46 shots and stopped 43 of them.

“I enjoy being in the net and getting a lot of shots, it’s exciting for me,” Chambers said. “The more shots I get, the more fun I’m having – as long as I’m stopping them.”

Chambers’ previous two starts weren’t as fun for him. He allowed 12 goals and had a save percentage below .800, so as much as the win on Saturday was a bounce back for the team, it also was for Chambers himself.

“The last two games I was shaky, not going to lie, and the boys definitely helped me out this week,” he expressed. “We all figured out what we needed help on and, this week, coach Sullivan really pushed us and it speaks for itself in the outcome, that’s for sure.”

“We have to tip our hat to ‘Jumbo’, he kept us in there,” Code said, praising his goalie. “We just need to bear down on things and continue playing hard like we do on the special teams, I’m sure it’ll translate over into our 5-on-5 play.”

Saturday was the first of three games for Carleton Place during the CCHL Showcase weekend. The Canadians have the Pembroke Lumber Kings up next on Sunday before facing the Nepean Raiders on Monday to wrap up the weekend.

“We know what we’re working on in practice is working (in games) and we can only go up from here,” Chambers said. “Coming out here and beating Navan, they’re a strong team in this league so the expectations for us are higher and we need to hold ourselves accountable to that.”

“I think we have another gear that we have yet to get close to and, again we didn’t play a full 60 minutes so we’re not close yet, but they have shown me what they can do,” Sullivan reiterated. “They’ve shown me how they can buy in, they’ve shown me how, shift after shift, a lot of our role guys do a lot of the ugly work. So what this does is lay a foundation for where I think we should begin.”