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Strong to start to 2019-20 season for Canadians with win over Braves

By: Daniel Vazzoler

For the first time since the 2013-14 season, the Carleton Place Canadians are not the defending Bogart Cup champions and they started the 2019-20 season looking hungry to reclaim that title with a 5-2 win against the Brockville Braves on Friday.

It took the opening 20 minutes of the game for the Canadians to get their feet back under them after a training camp where coach Jason Clarke said the team didn’t have a practice as a whole unit. Throw in the annual team bonding excursion just after camp ended and Clarke had two practices to prepare the team for the season opener.

“We were (like) a deer in the headlights in the first period,” he said. “We talked before the game about how we needed to bear down, do everything hard and use short shifts to get our feet underneath us because we haven’t had a lot of practices.”

Following the first period, it was evident Carleton Place got more comfortable in the game. Ryan Bonfield helped settle the nerves with a power play goal early in the second period.

Shortly thereafter, returning player David Gagnon flashed the skills that have members of the organization thinking he can be one better players in the CCHL. Mark Cooper started the play with a blocked shot on the penalty kill before sending Gagnon the other way. Gagnon stepped past the Braves defender, opened up Jake Begley and slipped the puck past him to double the Carleton Place lead.

After the Braves scored once on either side of Steven Townley’s goal, Bonfield restored the two-goal advantage with his second power play goal of the game late in the third period to help ensure the win.

Bonfield spent last season with the Perth Blue Wings of the CCHL2 and Friday was his debut in the CCHL. He said heading into the game he didn’t want to be nervous, he added getting regular power play time helped ease him into the game.

“It feels good (knowing) Jason has the trust in me to be on the power play,” he said. “Hopefully it’s something I can continue.”

“He’s a shooter, he shoots the puck hard and he’s a good player,” Clarke said. “We’ve been on him for a while and, when he became available, we jumped on him right away.”

Friday’s game could have been decided by the struggles Carleton Place had in the first period, but Devon Levi made 15 saves in the opening frame to allow his team-mates a chance to win the game.

“It was only the first period, I had a good period, but I knew I had to have a good next two periods to keep the team in the game,” the 18-year-old goalie said. “My job was not done after the first.”

Both teams got into penalty troubles on Friday and, as is usually the case, the special teams made the difference. Carleton Place converted on two of the five power plays they had while going a perfect 8-for-8 on the penalty kill to go with the short-handed goal.

“You can’t win games taking as many penalties as we did,” Canadians captain Elliott McDermott said. “We were fortunate enough to get a win this time but that won’t be the case every time. We’ve got to learn how to minimize bad penalties and that will be huge for us.”

Next up for the Canadians is the home opener against the Smiths Falls Bears. Home openers are typically high-emotion games, but the intensity is ramped up with it being a rivalry game against the Bears. For McDermott, he said the message to the rest of the team is clear.

“Just play your game. We’re all here for a reason so we just need to play to our strengths and play as a group.”

The home opener is on Sunday with puck drop scheduled for 3 p.m.