The Raiders reign supreme 0
CORNWALL - The Jr. A Colts reached the end of the line on Sunday afternoon, and it was a painful place to arrive at.
Their season ended at the Nepean Sportsplex, an epic Game 7 battle with the Raiders, won 4-3 by the home team.
The Central Canada Hockey League Bogart-Neilson Cup championship trophy goes to the Raiders, the regular season champs, but in a season when the Colts and so many of their veteran players were counting on a crown.
"It's a tough one for everyone,'' Colts head coach Ian MacInnis said. "The effort was there. And (in Game 7) we fought our way back in . . . but we couldn't sustain it.
"It's not easy for them (in the Cornwall dressing room) right now.''
The Colts had a 3-2 lead in games and were less than three minutes away from their first title in 11 years on Friday night at the civic complex, but Nepean rallied and won in overtime. On Sunday afternoon, the Colts scored first, they had a 2-1 lead late in the second period, and they got a tying goal midway in the third period.
But every time the Raiders really needed to respond - in most of the games of the last two playoff rounds - they did.
"Every time we needed a goal, or were being pressed, we kept going, we'd come back,'' Nepean head coach Peter Goulet said. "It was like (adversity was) a trigger for us.''
The ultimate game-winner snapping a 3-3 tie came with 4:29 left, Ryan MacLean's second goal of the contest, on a loose puck just in front of Cornwall goalie Lukas Hafner.
But the two key guys on the play were captain Craig Cowie, who sent a gorgeous long-distance cross-ice pass through the mid-slot to defenceman Ben Hutton, who was pinching in closer to the Cornwall net. Hutton - the OT hero in Cornwall on Friday - had his shot blocked, but MacLean fired in the rebound.
During the on-ice celebration afterwards, Hutton talked about the play.
"We had a casual skate on Saturday,'' Hutton recounted, and we worked on that the whole time, about 50 passes (from Cowie through the slot). It worked today . . . I guess practice works.''
Hutton and playoff most valuable player Ryan Johnston, also a blueliner, were the factors that the Colts just couldn't overcome.
"Nepean's a very good team, and they have two dominating players,'' MacInnis said. "With those two guys on the ice, we had a really hard time to defend. And when they're in the offensive zone, they're their best forwards.
"(The Raiders are strong), their puck possession is top notch.''
And it's Nepean that has the first title after Pembroke's remarkable run of five straight championships. Last spring, the Colts extended Pembroke to six games, before falling in the finals.
"The Colts did a great, great job (in the finals with Nepean),'' Goulet said. "I just think Ian MacInnis and that whole organization deserves a ton of credit. It really was a phenomenal final.''
But the Raiders always seemed to have the last word, even if they made things dicey, like needing OT on Friday despite outshooting the Colts 58-22.
Sunday the Raiders outshot Cornwall 32-19, but the Colts had two leads, including when Kyle Baun netted a powerplay goal 11:19 into the middle period to put the visitors up 2-1.
But Nepean turned the game around with two goals in just under three minutes. MacLean tied it up with 3:11 remaining in the period, and Hutton's low blast from the outer edge of the left circle beat Hafner along the ice to the far side with 30 seconds remaining.
Kevin Hope had two goals for the Colts, including on a delayed penalty call, with 10:29 left in regulation time, when his low shot from the mid-slot beat goalie Matt Zawadzki.
Attendance for the final was listed at 2,362.
GAME?STARS: The announced stars were Hutton (first), Keenan Hodgson (second) and Kenneth Neil .
The Raiders were the last of the four teams to qualify for the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian Championships that begins today in Kanata. The host Stallions are in the competition, along with Princeville, from the Quebec junior A league, and the Maritime league champion Woodstock (New Brunswick) Slammers. The Slammers won the MJHL title on Friday night, 4-3 over Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in triple overtime of Game 7.
The Raiders open the Fred Page Cup with a 4 p.m. Wednesday game against the Quebec champs, the Princeville Titan. "We have some homework to do, but we'll be ready to go,'' Raiders head coach Peter Goulet said.