The Vankleek Hill Junior “C” Cougars are headed to the second round of the National Capital Junior Hockey League (NCJHL) playoffs.
The Vankleek Hill squad won two out of three games this week to best the Bytown Royals 4-2 in the best-of-seven first-round series.
Coming off a 6-1 win the previous week, the Cougars travelled to Vanier on Friday looking to take a 3-1 series lead against the Royals. After a scoreless first period, things would stay tight through the second, with both teams trading goals to pace the game to a 1-1 tie to start the final frame. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the home team would take the advantage in the third, potting three goals to one for a 4-2 final in Bytown’s favour—tying the series at two games apiece. Nikolas Ayotte would score both Cougars goals in the loss.
The teams would return to action the following night at the Vankleek Hill arena. Continuing their momentum from the night before, the Royals would take the early lead, threatening to put the Cougars in series disadvantage for the first time in the opening round. However, the Cougars would rebound in the second, scoring two goals to the Royals’ one to once again leave the teams tied heading into the third. This time, the Cougars would be the ones to take control in the final frame, matching the Royals’ effort the previous night with a three-to-one differential to take the game 5-3 and the series’ lead 3-2. Justin Labrosse would get the hat-trick for the Cougars, while Alexander Labrèche would get the win in goal.
On Sunday, the two teams met for the third time in three days. Playing at home once again, the Cougars looked to close out the series without having to head back on the road for a seventh and deciding game. With their opponents in a vulnerable position, the Cougars let their killer instinct take hold, exploding for five goals in the opening frame to all but end the Royals’ playoff hopes. The Cougars would continue the onslaught through the next two periods, scoring six more goals to finish off the Royals by a final score of 11-4 and a 4-2 series victory. Frederick Durocher would get the series-clinching win in net, while Ayotte would score two goals and four assists for a six point outing. Ryan Allen would tally four goals and an assist for five points of his own.
The Cougars will move on to play the South Grenville Rangers in the second round. The series starts Saturday, March 9 at the Vankleek Hill Arena.
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