Cougars focused on the playoffs

Cougars focused on the playoffs

The Cougars closed out their regular season with a .500 record – 11 wins and 11 losses – to secure the fifth spot in the general standings of the NCJHL, between the Gatineau-Hull Volant and the St-Isidore Eagles. 

Vankleek Hill split their games against two division rivals last week to close out the season, first losing 5-1 against the Eagles on Wednesday before bouncing back against the North Dundas Rockets on Saturday to win 8-5. 

After a scoreless first period on Wednesday, the Eagles took a two-goal lead in the second period before adding three more goals in the third. Zachary Bigras did score a goal for the home team in the third period, with Justin Chaumont getting an assist on the play, but the Eagles proved to be too much for the Cougars to handle as they ran away with a clear win. 

However, the Cougars managed to bounce back against the Rockets in North Dundas on Saturday to blow out the home team 8-5. Justin Chaumont had an amazing game, scoring 5 goals to end his season with 22 goals and 23 assists in 21 games, making him the highest scoring player in the league, 7 points ahead of his North Dundas rival, forward Jarrett Williams. 

Joshua Renaud scored 4 assists for the Cougars and Simon Levac had 3 of his own. Brenden Easterbrook also notched a goal and an assist in the victory, while Alexander Perry and Alexandre Saul each scored a goal and Zachary Bigras had an assist. 

Cougars’ Head Coach Franky Dopelhamer believes his team will be able to build upon their success on the road against the Rockets as they prepare for their first-round matchup in the playoffs, the Gatineau-Hull Volant: 

“Winning that game the way we did was the best way to end the season and build confidence for the playoffs. We’ve had trouble scoring goals since we came back from the hiatus, so it was good to finally get our offense going. After our blow-out loss at home against the Rockets last week, we were hungry for a big win, and we kind of wanted to get our revenge. All of our guys stepped up in a major way.” 

The Cougars’ coach is satisfied with his team’s season, although he believes his team had the potential to win a few more games and end up with a better record than .500: “At the beginning of the year, we were aiming a little higher, but not that much higher. I believe we are one of the youngest teams in the league, so it was a little hard to gage our chances of success. But making the playoffs was priority number one and we achieved that goal.” 

Dopelhamer also believes his team has gotten better since the beginning of the year: “We have Chris Quann coming back from an injury and he’s going to make a big difference for us on the defensive end. We also signed forward Alexandre Saul recently, who played with the Hawks in junior A at the beginning of the year, and he scored a goal in his first game for us against the Rockets on Saturday. The guys in the locker room are seeing that the front office is making moves to improve the team, and that is giving them hope for the playoffs.” 

But the Cougars have their work cut out for them. Although the Volant only finished one point ahead of them in the general standings, they are second only to the Clarence Castors – the number one team in the league – in goals allowed. The Cougars also have a losing record against the Volant this season, having won only one game, tied another, and lost three against their playoff rivals. 

The playoffs will kick off this weekend as the Cougars play back-to-back games against the Volant, first in Gatineau on Friday before playing in front of their fans in Vankleek Hill on Saturday. 

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