“It was close,” said Head Coach Franky Dopelhammer, “but we weren’t playing to our potential.”
The two teams were tied 3-3 coming out of second period in their fifth match against each other March 8 in Gatineau. They each got a goal around the mid-mark of third period. Then the Volant got a pair of empty-net goals to win the match and the right to move on to the next round in the National Capital Junior Hockey League (NCJHL) playoffs.
Cougars assistant captain Eric Skyba put Vankleek Hill on the scoreboard first midway through first period, with help from team captain Mikael Bissonnette and Brendan Easterbrook. Bissonnette added another point to the Cougars’ score five minutes later, with an assist from assistant captain John Mahoney.
Guillaume Durocher, with help from Samuel Duval, got the Volant’s first goal of the game with four minutes left in first period. During the final two minutes Samuel Lamarche, assisted by Étienne Champagnes and Jérémy Marcotte, tied up the score.
Second period saw Mathis Villeneuve break the tie in the Volant’s favour, with help from Champagne and Jacob Éthier. In the last four minutes of the period Alexandre Saul scored an unassisted goal for the Cougars to tie up the score again.
Thomas Kelly’s unassisted goal broke the tie in Vankleek Hill’s favour at the midpoint of third period. Then the Volant fired in a series of points during the rest of the period starting with Champagne to tie up the score again, Villeneuve to break it, and then two unassisted empty net goals by Marcotte to finish the game.
The Cougars coach noted that he and the players are disappointed they did not get to move on to the second round of the playoffs. Next season, Coach Dopelhamer noted, should be different as he expects to see most, if not all, of this season’s roster of players return for another try at the NCJHL title.
Dopelhamer noted that only four of this season’s Cougars won’t be coming back because they have reached the league’s 21-year-old age limit. He observed that would leave Vankleek Hill with a good core group of veterans and seasoned rookies for next year compared to some other NCJHL clubs that will see a large number of their older players leaving.
Dopelhamer expressed thanks for local fan support of the Cougars during their playoffs series. He noted that at least 300 local fans showed up for all of the team’s road games against the Volant and the last home game had a crowd of between 500 to 600.