Will the Cornwall Jr. A Colts go to the holiday break feeling good about themselves?
The answer from head coach Ian MacInnis is yes – and his response wasn’t going to be influenced by how this week’s two games unfolded.
“I don’t get too worked up about these last two games – they’re Christmas games,’’ MacInnis said. “(Players are) already thinking about the break. . .(overall) we’ve been good. I like our team and I like the parity in the league this year.’’
Thursday’s “Christmas game’’ included a civic complex visit from Santa Claus, and the Colts provided a gift of two points to their fans, a 3-1 victory over the Navan Grads, with 1,010 watching. Cornwall’s Friday night game in Hawkesbury closes out the 2018 portion of the CCHL regular campaign.
And things are a lot better than they were late in September, for sure. But the Colts have been hot and cold all season so far, a team that has re-tooled with several player personnel moves, a club that’s looked to be oh, so close to moving up several notches in the Central Canada Hockey League, but one that’s been in seventh place for a while and could potentially fall to a rung that would keep them out of the post-season.
Thursday’s win had the Colts leapfrog past Kanata and into sixth-place overall, with a record of 18-15-3-2.
“We were destined to not be a playoff team or a contender,’’ MacInnis said of the earlier struggles. “(But) we made some good acquisitions, and I think it’ll make us good going forward (next season) too, so I’m OK with how things have gone.’’
The end of Game 31 is the halfway point for CCHL teams and all clubs reached that point a couple of weeks ago, but it’s the holiday break that feels like midway point, the Colts playing in Hawkesbury on Friday night and not again until Jan. 3, when the Hawks visit the civic complex.
When the Colts beat the Hawks 3-2 in Cornwall on Dec. 6, that made it four wins in five games. But then came back-to-back losses to Ottawa and Navan a week ago.
Cornwall had a total of two goals in those to setbacks, and event during the hot streak they were hardly scoring in bunches.
With 102 goals heading into this week’s action, the Colts were 10th out of 12 teams in scoring.
Defensively, Cornwall is in the middle of the pack in goals allowed, and the Colts would be in much bigger trouble if not for Michael Carr’s effective goaltending play so far.
Carr is sixth in the league with a goals against average of 2.89, and his save percentage of .922 is third best. Carr’s been durable and busy – he’s logged over 2,100 minutes, far more than any other CCHL goalkeeper.
His importance is hard to overstate. In Thursday’s tight game, Carr bailed out his teammates a couple of times, when both clubs had opportunities to seize control of the contest.
Midway in the first period, a turnover had Navan’s Calvin Moise all alone, at the edge of the crease, but Carr somehow kept the puck out.
It was early, yes, but a few minutes later Cornwall opened the scoring and they’d never relinquish the lead, a power play goal with 5:53 to go in the frame, a great one-timer shot by Konnor MacCormick on a pass across the mid-slot from Alex Gagnon.
Clinging to that lead in the second period, the Colts relied on Carr several time to keep it a 1-0 game, and one of his best stops came on an Alex Robert breakaway with just over four minutes left.
The Colts got some short-lived breathing room with 9:56 left in regulation time when Gagnon made it 2-0, but the Grads quickly answered on a Moise goal with 9:06 to go, and Cornwall didn’t put this one away until Josh Barnes scored into an empty Navan net with 1:01 remaining.
Navan ended up outshooting Cornwall 30-28, and Seth Carter took the goaltending loss.
Announced stars were Carr (first), Carter (second) and Gagnon.
In other league news, Kanata Lasers veteran forward Luca Nocita, with family ties to Cornwall, is the most recent recipient of the league’s player of the week award.
Nocita scored three goals and added an assist in Kanata’s lone contest last week, the performance moving him into a tie for first overall in CCHL scoring with 41 points.