This past Saturday, the CCHL descended upon their annual winter showcase day.
The CCHL elected to move the showcase away from the Bell Sensplex in Kanata for this season, re-branding it Hockey Day in Carleton Place in the process.
The Carleton Place Arena played host to the fun event which featured a big presence from both the Do It For Daron (DIFD) foundation for mental health awareness and one of the CCHL’s main sponsors in Gongshow Gear.
The teams taking part would help DIFD raise awareness by wearing special purple and white sweaters for the day’s games.
With playoff intensity in the air, multiple match-ups with heavy implications on the post-season picture took place, starting with Kanata and Brockville at the crack of dawn – 10 AM.
This game provided for a good representation of the situation – a high intensity start that featured a lot of boards play and contact, which can be attributed to the small ice surface at the Carleton Place Arena’s main ice pad where the game was played.
Kanata kept with the Braves for the first half of the game before Brockville was able to take over. The defensive breakdown of the Lasers contributed to it, as they heavily relied on their defensemen to hold down the fort throughout the game, with Brockville dictating the pace.
The final score was 5-1 with the Braves coming out on top, making the pressure on 4th place Pembroke a little greater in order to hold on to home ice advantage in the playoffs. The Braves are now just 5 points back of the Lumber Kings.
Games were ongoing at both of the Carleton Place Arena’s ice pads, which allowed the Smiths Falls Bears and Gloucester Rangers to take each other on at 10:30 AM.
Looking at the game on paper, it appeared that we were in for a mismatch. However, with the Rangers’ Max Veronneau on a torrid pace that’s making headlines all around the league, every Gloucester game is proving to be unpredictable down the stretch.
In Carleton Place, they came out flat and allowed the Bears to take an early lead, one that they would hold to for the remainder of the game.
There was definitely no lack of chipping and chirping in the game, with much of it audible in Carleton Place’s smaller ice pad. Frequent gatherings in front of the net after whistles provided for a good amount of fire, which helped pack the rink with many fans that were floating around the community complex all day.
The final score was 5-2 Bears, making Gloucester’s playoff hopes a little shadier.
The result of the next game wouldn’t help the Rangers’ post-season aspirations either, with an upset from an upstart Kemptville 73’s squad that put themselves in a very good position to qualify for the playoffs. At 12:30 PM, they went to battle with the Pembroke Lumber Kings, impressively beating the 4th place team in a 7-5 shooting gallery.
Pembroke’s early lead seemed insurmountable at first. However after a lacklustre first period, the 73’s took control of the game with the help of starting goaltender Matt Couvrette, outscoring Pembroke 6-3 in the final 2 stanzas.
If you include their 8-0 shellacking of the Hawkesbury Hawks in Kemptville shortly after Hockey Day, the 73’s have a 6 point advantage on 9th place Gloucester. This puts them in a good position headed into the playoffs, both mentally and in the standings. The Rangers, Grads and Lasers have a great deal of work to do if they wish to catch 73’s for that final playoff spot.
The game that everyone waited for involved the host Carleton Place Canadians, who are on their way to winning the league’s pennant. Hosting the struggling Cumberland Grads, CPC was expected to roll. However Cumberland stayed with the Canadians, delivering an entertaining match-up for the fans in attendance.
This lasted until part way through the 2nd period when Craig Pefley and Andy Sturtz combined for two CPC goals in under a minute to give the Canadians a 4-2 lead, one that would stand until the final buzzer, with 6-3 being the final.
The win helped put the Canadians an unprecedented 20 points up on the nearest club in the standings, the Smiths Falls Bears.
The other two games proved to have slightly less intensity than the one’s mentioned above, with the Ottawa Jr. Senators defeating the Hawkesbury Hawks 7-0 in the final game of the day, as well as a 3-0 win for the Cornwall Colts in a re-match of last year’s finals vs. Nepean.
In the end, the main purpose of Hockey Day was to replace last year’s CCHL Holiday Showcase tournament as an event where scouts can easily see all CCHL talent on display.
Not only did the event do a phenomenal job fitting that description, but it added a unique small town feel to what is otherwise a big city type of showcase. All this while promoting a great cause – proceeds from the tournament were donated to DIFD, helping prop up the mental health discussion, which has become a very important issue in today’s world.
Overall, a fun event proved to be beneficial for all scouts, players, fans and media involved. Hopefully, we’ll see the return of Hockey Day next year in another CCHL arena near you.