By: Daniel Vazzoler
The Carleton Place Canadians may be out a handful of regulars from their line-up, but that didn’t stop them from picking up a critical two points on Sunday against the Renfrew Wolves.
The Canadians had to rely on four forwards called up from the Jr B squad to go up against a veteran-laden Wolves group, yet they didn’t miss a beat in picking up a 4-2 win at the Carleton Place Arena.
“I’ve been saying since Day One, we have a lot of guys nipping on the heels of our group that would love to be here every day,” Canadians coach Brent Sullivan said. “Nothing is given, everything is earned and those guys go down there, they work hard and they compete. When they come up here, they stick to their mojo, they don’t play outside of themselves. I basically asked them every single shift to try and create positive energy, move your feet, reload on forechecks and they did just that.”
The hard work of Rhys Smetham, Dylan Pollock and Connor Dickey – a line called up together from the Jr B group – essentially led to the game-winning goal from Braeden Donnelly.
Going up against the Wolves top line, the Smetham-Pollock-Dickey trio kept Renfrew hemmed in their own end and didn’t allow the potential mismatch to come to fruition. Instead, the Canadians kept the puck in the attacking zone and allowed Sullivan to throw over his top unit to try and add to a 2-1 advantage at the time.
The move paid dividends as, on that shift, Donnelly grabbed a loose puck at centre ice, following Matteo Disipio’s chip pass, and weaved in over the attacking blue-line before snapping a shot past Will Craig low on the blocker side for a 3-1 lead late in the second period.
“I thought that every single one of them was amazing,” captain Jackson Hay said of the four call-ups, with J.J. Swyer being the fourth. “They brought energy every single shift. It’s not like they were out there just to be out there, they were getting scored chances. They were all amazing, all around.”
While it may have been the ‘young guns’ that drove the energy for the Canadians, it was the line of Evan Jamieson, Derek Hamilton and Matteo Disipio that paced the team offensively – scoring three goals and being on the ice for the fourth as well.
“Sips and Hammy play really well together,” Sullivan said, “and what we wanted to do was throw in some meat (on that line). That’s what Evan Jamieson is. He’s essentially a north-south player, he does not cheat the game at all, he’s grateful to be here and he’d put his head in front of a puck if he had to. We knew that, at least, what he would do is put pressure on their D to allow Hammy and Sips to create some turnovers. It’s a fast line, I wouldn’t want to defend against them.”
That speed created the games first goal. Disipio took the pass in stride at centre ice and blew past the Wolves defender, drawing support to him and Jamieson, ultimately leaving Hamilton open on the opposite side. Hamilton whiffed on the first attempt, but had the time and space to recover the puck and, from below the goal-line, spin his shot at the net and bank it off of Craig for the goal.
On the defensive side of the game for the Canadians, it was a busy afternoon for Joe Chambers and the penalty killers. Chambers stopped 32 of 34 shots he faced, while the penalty kill for Carleton Place was a perfect 5-for-5.
“He was controlled, composed and big,” said Sullivan of his netminder. “I think he plays his best when there’s not a lot of holes on him. He’s confident and was really happy to see that.”
Sullivan gave a tip of the cap to assistant coach Devin Campbell, who runs the defence and penalty killing, but the bulk of the credit went to the players and their hard work.
“Penalty killing, yes there’s a structure and a system, but a lot of it is ugly stuff. It’s stops and starts, sticks in routes, it’s sacrificing yourself. We had a big kill there, the 5-on-3 in the second, that was essentially the game,” he said.
“Every guy on our penalty kill was not just out there picking up a man, but, if a puck’s coming in, he’s going to take it and I think that’s the major key,” added Hay on the penalty kill’s willingness to block shots.
No time to celebrate the victory as the Canadians are back in action on Monday with a crucial two points at stake against the Smiths Falls Bears, who are chasing them for the eighth and final playoff spot in the CCHL.
“We all know it’s a four-point game, we need to come in and do the exact same thing,” Hay stated. “We did it for one game but we’ve got to get a streak going here and string some wins together.”