As far as five-year plans go, the Carleton Place Canadians have a pretty good one.
Just five years after making the jump from Junior B and the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, Carleton Place will play for Canada’s National Junior A Championship, a meteoric rise for the Ottawa-area franchise.
But as good as the on-ice product has been – and it was record-setting good this season – the key to success for the Canadians has been the off-ice support it has received from the community.
“Our corporate sponsors, our fans and our volunteers have been huge,” said Carleton Place owner, general manager and head coach Jason Clarke. “We’re a very small market team as compared to some of the B.C. teams, so without our corporate sponsors, our fans and our volunteers, we would not be anywhere close to where we are now.”
Eliminated in the Central Canada Hockey League semifinals in each of the past two years, the Canadians were the class of the CCHL during the regular season, going 54-6-2 to set league records for wins and points in a season, and leading the way in goals for, goals against and power play efficiency.
The key to success, according to Clarke, was the Canadians’ depth, and the ability of all 24 players on the roster to contribute.
“The big thing with us is that we score by committee,” he said. “We have Andy Sturtz and Evan Peterson, who have been our leading point-getters all season, but everyone picked up the slack in different games and we got contributions from all four lines, so I think our depth is really what got us here.”
After cruising through the regular season, Carleton Place ran into its first bit of adversity in the CCHL semifinals, dropping the first two games against the Pembroke Lumber Kings and trailing 2-0 in Game 3.
“We had a very emotional in-between-periods speech, and we came back to win that game 5-2,” Clarke said. “For us to be able to win that series, in double overtime in Game 6 and then Game 7 at home, was really the turning point for our playoff run.”
The Canadians lost just twice more on the road to Vernon, winning their first league and regional championships along the way.
Now, all that’s missing is the final piece of the Canadians’ Triple Crown puzzle – the RBC Cup – and Clarke admits his team is playing with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder.
“It would mean so much (to win the RBC Cup),” he said. “Our league does not get a lot of respect from across the country. There were a lot of articles written in the papers out west that didn’t have very many nice things to say about our league and our team, so it would mean a lot for me on a personal level, but also to me as an owner in our league for our other 12 teams. This experience has really made me proud to be an owner in the CCHL, and the owner of the Carleton Place Canadians.”
HOW THEY GOT TO VERNON
Central Canada Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Kemptville 4-0 (5-2, 3-1, 6-1, 5-1)
Semifinal: defeated Pembroke 4-3 (3-4, 3-8, 5-2, 7-2, 0-5, 4-3 2OT, 5-2)
CCHL championship: defeated Smiths Falls 4-1 (5-2, 4-2, 3-2, 2-5, 2-1 OT)
Fred Page Cup
Preliminary round: 3-0, first place (defeated Saint-Jérôme 6-4, defeated Granby 4-2, defeated Truro 2-1)
Championship game: defeated Saint-Jérôme 3-1
Record: 54-6-2 (1st in CCHL)
Goals For: 293 (1st in CCHL)
Goals Against: 149 (1st in CCHL)
Power Play: 83 for 302 (27.5% - 1st in CCHL)
Penalty Killing: 278 of 329 (84.5% - 2nd in CCHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 18 (Jan. 10-Feb. 27)
Top 3 Scorers:
Playoff Record: 16-4
Goals For: 77
Goals Against: 51
Power Play: 17 for 105 (16.2%)
Penalty Killing: 84 of 100 (84.0%)
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
effective two-way forward … makes good decisions with the puck … quick hands … nice touch … dangerous on the penalty kill … reads the play well … high-level hockey sense … deceptive
dynamic player … highly competitive … doesn’t shy away from physical play … great hands … excellent hockey IQ … quick feet … tremendous acceleration … sees the ice incredibly well
two-way defenceman … very good offensive instincts … plays with confidence … fluid skater … creates offence for teammates … plays in all situations … good anticipation … plays physical
Brett D’Andrea – Bowling Green State University (2014-15)
Luke Edwards – Niagara University (2014-15)
Dylan Gareau – Clarkson University (2014-15)
Elias Ghantous – Robert Morris University (2014-15)
Anthony McVeigh – Utica College (2014-15)
Evan Peterson – Colgate University (2014-15)
Larry Smith – Niagara University (2014-15)
Andy Sturtz – Penn State University (2015-16)
Kelly Summers – Clarkson University (2014-15)
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