CCHL WEEKLY REPORT
Cornwall opens Fred Page Cup Wednesday; Colts won CCHL championship on third try
By JEFF MAGUIRE
The third time is the charm for Cornwall Colts!
After two straight, unsuccessful attempts to win the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) championship, Cornwall laid claim to the Bogart-Nielsen Cup at the third attempt.
Veteran defenceman and team captain Stephen Johnson was the overtime hero last Wednesday night (April 24) as Colts edged defending champion Nepean Raiders 3-2 in front of more than 600 fans at Nepean Sportsplex.
Johnson, a 20-year-old Mississauga native, scored an unassisted goal with 5:12 remaining in the first extra period to trigger a jubilant celebration. Colts, who lost in seven games to Raiders in last year’s league final, mobbed goalie Jordan Piccolino who was later named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the CCHL playoffs.
Colts hoist the championship trophy while Piccolino claims the Turpin Family Award as the post season MVP.
Cornwall will now represent the CCHL in the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian Junior A championship tournament. Colts left the Seaway city by bus this morning (Monday) to make the long drive to Truro, Nova Scotia which is hosting this year’s event.
The competition starts Wednesday afternoon in the central Nova Scotia town. Cornwall faces Summerside (Prince Edward Island) Western Capitals, the champions of the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) in the opening game at 4 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) Wednesday.
Last year Kanata Stallions of the CCHL hosted the Fred Page event. Nepean was edged by Woodstock (New Brunswick) Slammers, the MHL winners, in the championship game played at Kanata Recreation Complex.
Wednesday’s victory by Cornwall secured the CCHL final for Colts in six games. They could have claimed the hardware on home ice two nights earlier, but were edged 4-3 by the visiting Raiders.
Cornwall head coach and general manager Ian MacInnis wasn’t concerned where his team won the title, only that they are victorious.
“It’s somewhat rewarding (for MacInnis personally). But what was really nice was to see the kids celebrate the championship,” the veteran coach and former professional hockey player said Friday. MacInnis was working in the team office preparing for the Fred Page tournament.
“Nobody even had us remotely in this thing (CCHL race). But by December I thought we had as good a chance as anyone. It was a very tight league and I thought we stacked up well with everyone else,” MacInnis states.
“I am always happy to make it into the final. After that everything is gravy,” he adds.
He readily admits Piccolino was a huge factor for his team in the playoffs, especially in the seven game semi-final win over Carleton Place Canadians.
“There were some games in that series that weren’t even close (Canadians dominated territorially).
“I think Game 7 (in Carleton Place) was our best.”
Referring to the final against defending champion Nepean, MacInnis says it was a very different showdown.
“Nepean was a different match-up. They turned their shooters loose and we turned ours loose. We really pushed the pace. Game 6 (the deciding contest) was a fantastic game,” the Cornwall coach and GM observes.
It was anything but easy for Cornwall in the league playoffs. Colts, who finished a close third overall in the incredibly tight CCHL regular season standings, played 19 games, winning an even dozen to finally shake the monkey off their backs.
They bested Seaway rival Brockville Braves in six games in the quarter finals. As mentioned it took seven games and some awe inspiring goaltending performances from Piccolino, before Cornwall could outlast Carleton Place in their semi-final set. Canadians dominated territorially in all seven games but Piccolino, an 18-year-old from Pierrefonds, Quebec continually came to his team’s rescue. He faced 286 shots in the semi-final series and stopped 258 of them.
In the championship series with Nepean, four of the first five games saw the team that dominated the shots on goal chart lose. The clubs tied in scoring chances in Game 4 which Colts won 1-0. Piccolino earned his first post season shutout in that one!
However in what turned out to be the deciding game in the final series Raiders, who finished fifth overall during the regular season, made it to overtime only because of a spectacular net minding performance from veteran Matt Zawadzki. He stopped 37 shots in regulation time and 11 more in the overtime period before Johnson’s sixth playoff goal won the game and the series for Cornwall. Colts outshot Raiders 51-34 in the deciding tilt.
Earlier in the playoffs Nepean surprised perennial league champion Pembroke Lumber Kings in four straight games in the quarter finals. Pembroke won an unprecedented five consecutive league titles between 2007 and 2011 before being knocked from their throne by Raiders in seven games in last season’s semi-finals.
Zawadzki, who was named the first star of Wednesday’s game, replaced Ryan Mulder early in the second period of Game 1 on April 14 (a 3-2 Cornwall victory) and blanked the visiting Colts the rest of the way.
After that Zawadzki had a major influence in all five games played, helping Nepean to a pair of vital victories. Despite another huge effort by the 20-year-old goalie from Fort Mill, South Carolina, Raiders bowed to the Colts and the CCHL has a new champion in 2013.
Colts won the regular season series between the long-time rivals 4-1.
Offensively Cornwall was led by forward Michael Pontarelli. The 19-year-old right winger from Laval, Quebec had one assist in Game 6 to finish the post season with a league leading 25 points including a CCHL best 15 playoff goals. Pontarelli won the regular season scoring title in the league with 107 points including 52 goals in 53 games. He missed nine games due to injury.
The day before Colts secured the title, Pontarelli was named one of five finalists for the ‘Top Forward Award’ which will be announced by the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) the week before this year’s Royal Bank Cup (RBC) national championship tournament in Summerside, PEI May 11-19. The five individual awards, including top forward, are based on regular season performance.
Defenceman Kelly Summers of Carleton Place Canadians in one of the candidates for CJHL ‘Rookie of the Year’.
The CJHL represents 10 Tier 1 Junior A leagues from coast-to-coast in Canada, including the CCHL.
Also during this year’s league playoffs, Pontarelli’s Cornwall teammate Johnson finished second in scoring with 19 points including 13 helpers. Besides scoring the game and series winner Wednesday, Johnson also earned assists on the other Cornwall markers.
Colts’ centre Marly Quince, who picked up one assist in the deciding contest, was third in playoff scoring with 18 points including 13 helpers.
Rounding out the Top 5 were forwards Corey Durocher and Dalen Hedges of Nepean. Durocher scored both of Raiders’ goals Wednesday to finish the second season with 17 points. Hedges, who had one set-up in Game 6, ended the playoffs with eight goals and eight assists.
Prior to Wednesday, Cornwall’s last league title came in 2001. This marks Colts’ fifth championship and the eighth overall for the city.
Raiders won the third ever Junior A hockey title for the Ottawa suburb of Nepean last spring.
The Fred Page tournament, which concludes Sunday in the Maritimes, also features the host Truro Bearcats of the MHL and Longueuil Collège Français, champions of the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League.
Summerside and Truro are very familiar to one another. They finished 1-2 in the MHL during the regular season. They later met in the Kent Cup (MHL) final with Western Capitals winning the series in five games.
“I don’t know a lot about Longueuil,” says Cornwall coach MacInnis. “But I do know something about the two Maritime teams. Summerside has a strong club with quite a few ex-Major Junior guys in the line-up.
“I’m going into this (Fred Page Cup) with an open mind. We’ll turn it loose and see what happens.”
Colts held practices Friday, Saturday and Sunday before boarding the bus for the east coast early Monday.
“We will be driving straight through. It will be a long day but we have Tuesday to prepare,” MacInnis outlines.
Following Wednesday’s game against Summerside, Colts face host Truro Thursday night. They wrap up the round-robin portion of the tournament Friday afternoon versus Quebec champion Longueuil.
The team with the best record in the round-robin earns a bye into Sunday afternoon’s final. The second and third place finishers will meet in Saturday night’s semi-final contest.
For complete details on the 2013 Fred Page Cup visit the website: www.trurojrabearcats.ca
No matter what happens in the Eastern Canadian tournament, Summerside will play host to the RBC championship beginning on Saturday, May 11. The national title game will be played Sunday, May 19 at Consolidated Credit Union Place in the PEI city.
Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League (BCJHL) are the defending champions. Vees defeated Woodstock (N.B.) Slammers 4-3 in the final of last year’s competition on Mother’s Day. The event was held in Humboldt, Saskatchewan.
The last CCHL team to win the national crown was Pembroke in 2011. Lumber Kings blanked two-time defending Canadian champion Vernon Vipers (BCJHL) 2-0 in the championship game played in Camrose, Alberta.
The following is a summary of last Wednesday’s sixth and deciding game of the CCHL championship series.
Cornwall 3 – Nepean 2 (OT): Stephen Johnson’s goal at 14:48 of the first overtime period gave Colts the Bogart-Nielsen Cup after frustrating losses in the CCHL final the past two seasons. Johnson put an unassisted marker past Raiders’ goalie Matt Zawadzki to give Cornwall the title in six games. Zawadzki, who made 48 saves to keep the defending champion Raiders in the game, was named the first star. Johnson was the second star while Colts’ net minder Jordan Piccolino, a standout throughout the playoffs, was named the third star of the series deciding contest. Piccolino made 32 stops for his 12th post season win against seven setbacks. Veteran forward Mitch Zion gave Cornwall the lead with the only goal of the first period Wednesday. Left winger Corey Durocher scored twice in the middle period to give Nepean a 2-1 edge after 40 minutes. Durocher’s first was as unassisted effort at the five minute mark of period two. He scored his sixth playoff goal and 17th point during a Raiders’ powerplay with one minute, two seconds remaining in the second period. Centre Billy Ulrick, with his second tally of the post season, tied it for the visitors at 3:06 of the third period. Ulrick’s strike forced overtime and teammate Johnson was the hero, triggering the game winner late in the first overtime session. Referees Peter Coleman and Tom Sweeney combined to call just four minor penalties in the contest, three of those going to the home team. Nepean had the only man advantage goal of the game.
NOTE: This concludes the CCHL Weekly Report for this season. Thank you for your interest. Please return to this website and this column in September for the start of the 2013-2014 league campaign!
Jeff Maguire is a career journalist based in Carleton Place. He has covered junior hockey in Ontario for 42 years. Jeff’s report appears on the CCHL website every week throughout the regular season and playoffs. He can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org