The first two games of the series were closely fought contests, but the Castors pulled through in the end to score the game-winner in back-to-back double-overtime bouts. Game three was more one-sided, as the Castors crushed the Rangers 5-1 in Clarence to take a three-game lead in the series. The Castors started game four in South Grenville on the right foot, taking a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play. The Ranger then managed to tie the game in the second period, but Nicholas Gaumond finally scored the game-winner in the third period to take game four and bring the NCJHL Championship home. Castors’ goaltender Corey Camirand was named finals MVP.
Castors’ Head Coach Tim Kosch is really proud of the work his team accomplished this year, and even happier that all of their efforts finally paid off: “It’s a great feeling to be league champions after everything we went through. I’m kind of relieved that we were able to close it out in four games and not let the series drag on.”
With the Castors ending the season with the best record in the NCJHL, the team felt there was growing pressure to deliver a championship, and they rose and shone in the finals: “With the growing expectations on our shoulders, we wanted to prove that what we accomplished this year was not a fluke” said Kosch. “We played with that sense of pride and urgency.”
For Coach Kosch, the key to the Castors’ success in the finals is the same as it has been all year: defence and discipline.
“We won the finals playing the same style of hockey we’ve been playing all year” said Kosch, “Defence and discipline are our number one priorities. I warned the guys that it was going to be tough, that they were going to take a lot of bumps and bruises, a lot of sticks and elbows, but that they would have to suck it up, keep a cool head, and stick to the game plan. It paid off in the end.”
But the adversity the Castors faced during the series was not only of the physical kind. Castors’ goaltender Corey Camirand, who had not played in games one and two of the finals after his dog passed away, was mercilessly taunted about his dog by the opposing team as well as the fans during the last game in South Grenville.
“I’m really proud of the way Corey dealt with the harassment” said Kosch. ”It’s really unbecoming of hockey fans to behave in this way. But he delivered the kind of performance we expect from him, and proved himself to be a better person on top of that.”
The next hockey season might look very different for the Castors, as this year’s team was built around a core of 20- and 21-year-old veterans who won’t be returning. However, there are five or six players on the team that will be making a return next year, including 2021-2022 NCJHL Rookie of the Year Xavier Brunet, so there is hope that the Castors might rebuild a championship contender next year.
“We’ve had to rebuild for two of the last three years,” said Kosch “and we’ll have to do it again next year. But we have five or six guys in the locker room that will be returning with the experience of winning a championship, so we’ll definitely have a good foundation to build on.”