It was a tough weekend for the Vankleek Hill Cougars, as the team dropped consecutive home games, including a 7-5 loss to the North Dundas Rockets on Sunday afternoon, October 24.

The Cougars looked sharp as they jumped out to a 2-1 first period lead, with Nathan Sauvé notching an early goal as the Cougars dominated first period play. However the Rockets came out strong in the second period, firing four goals past Vankleek Hill netminder Charles Paré and taking a 5-3 lead after two frames. Both teams scored twice in the third.

Justin Chaumont had two goals in the loss, while Sauvé, Maxime Rozon and Jérémy Marcotte added singles.

Sunday’s loss followed a strong effort by the Cougars on Saturday night, October 23, when they dropped a close 3-2 decision to the second-place South Grenville Rangers.

The teams were tied 1-1 heading into the third period, thanks to a strong performance from Vankleek Hill netminder Frederick Duroucher-Bourdon. However the Rangers outscored the Cougars 2-1 in the final frame to seal the 3-2 victory. Mathieu Levesque and Jonathan Campbell scored in a losing cause for the home team.

The Junior C Cougars remain in sixth place in the nine-team National Capital Junior Hockey League, however the squad has performed better than its two wins and five losses record would indicate. All of the team’s games have been close and at 28-28, the Cougars’ goals-for/goals-against differential is much better than the three clubs which trail Vankleek Hill in the standings.

The coaching staff of the Vankleek Hill Cougars will be working with the players on several areas of improvement which they hope will help boost the confidence of the young squad. Photo: Reid Masson

“We are playing some good hockey – better than our record is showing,” said Cougars Head Coach Franky Dopelhamer, noting the players are working hard and need a few bounces to go their way to gain confidence. “I feel that the work ethic is there, but not for all 60 minutes.”

“We are not getting any (good) bounces for our efforts and it feels that the other teams did in our last three games.”

The Cougars will face another tough test at home this Saturday, October 30, as the 5-1 Gatineau-Hull Volant visit the Vankleek Hill Community Centre in a game that starts at 7:20 p.m. The Cougars will then hit the road on Sunday, October 31, to face the first-place Clarence Castors in a Halloween afternoon contest, beginning at 2:20 p.m. at the Clarence Creek Recreational Centre.

“Our next two games are a big test for us, as we are playing the first and third place (teams),” Dopelhamer said. “We can only look ahead and not behind us and we will need to play hard for a full 60 minutes and try to build some confidence.”

Dopelhamer said the team’s coaching staff will be working with the players during practices this week, on several areas which require improvement.

“Two areas that we need to improve are secondary scoring and goaltending,” said the Cougars head coach, noting that it is a long season. “We are a young team and still have lots to learn.”

The Vankleek Hill squad lost two players to injury during the two losses last weekend, as co-Captain Chris Quann and rookie defenceman Mathieu Levesque will both be out for an undetermined length of time.

“Those two guys will be hard to replace, but (other players) will have opportunities to get more ice time,” Dopelhamer said.

Nathan Sauvé (14) notched the opening goal as the Cougars jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in their home game against the North Dundas Rockets, Sunday, October 24. The Rockets however roared back with a four-goal second period, as the Cougars fell 7-5. Photo: Reid Masson