For the first time in recent memory, the Carleton Place Canadians will have a bit of an unwanted extended spring break.
That’s because the Central Canada Hockey League franchise just missed out on once again qualifying for the RBC Cup, the national Junior A championship.
The Canadians have captured the CCHL title in each of the past four
years. And during the previous three seasons, the Carleton Place squad
also ended up winning the Fred Page Cup, a regional qualifying tourney,
thus earning a berth into the nationals.
But the Canadians’ quest for a fourth consecutive appearance at the RBC Cup came to an end on Sunday in La Belle Province.
Carleton Place was downed 5-2 by the host Terrebonne Cobras of the Quebec Junior Hockey League in the championship final of this year’s Fred Page Cup. With that win the Cobras advanced to the RBC Cup, which is scheduled to kick off this coming Saturday in Cobourg, Ont.
Sunday’s contest versus the Cobras was much closer than the three-goal margin of victory indicates. Terrebonne scored the winning goal in the 12th minute of the third period on a powerplay. The Cobras added a pair of empty-net goals in the final two minutes of the match.
“Our kids played really hard,” said Canadians head coach/GM Jason Clarke. “And I think we did a good job going into third period tied at 2-2.”
The Carleton Place side can be forgiven for running out of gas in the final 20 minutes. After all, the Canadians were playing their fifth game in as many days at the tournament.
The Cobras, who won all three of their round-robin matches at the tourney, earned a spot into the finals and had the luxury of a day off before the championship contest.
Carleton Place had to take the long route into finals, by playing a semifinal game on Saturday, since they got off to a disappointing tournament start. The Canadians lost their first two round-robin games, both in a shootout.
“Our team has always bounced back after stuff like that,” Clarke said.
Carleton Place did defeat the Maritime Hockey League champion Truro Bearcats 3-1 in its final round-robin tilt. And the Canadians then blanked the QJHL finalists from Longueuil 2-0 in their semifinal battle.
But instead of packing their bags for the eight-day national tournament in Cobourg, the Canadians now turn their thoughts to the 2017-18 campaign.
This will be a year in which there will be plenty of talk of whether the Carleton Place organization can win a fifth straight CCHL title.
It’s not an unprecedented feat though as the Pembroke Lumber Kings won five consecutive league crowns from 2007 through 2011.
Since some players have used up their junior eligibility and others are moving up to higher levels, the Canadians can expect perhaps only about half of their roster back next season.
“That’s junior hockey,” Clarke said. “We’ve always had the motto in our organization we don’t rebuild, we reload.”
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