I had lots of fun watching all the teams play in the National Capital Hockey League’s (NCJHL) annual Showcase last Saturday (September 24).

The event at Stade Pierre Lafontaine in Gatineau, Quebec, featured all 10 NCJHL teams playing in five games. Judging from how close all of the games were, competition in the NCJHL is going to be fierce this season.

In the 9 a.m. game last Saturday, the Almonte Inferno eked out a narrow 2-1 victory over the Metcalfe Jets. Metcalfe looks much improved this year and got off to a strong start, before Almonte took over the game.

The Vankleek Hill Cougars outscored the Westport Rideaus 4-1 in a fast-paced game that was much closer than the final score indicated in the 11:30 a.m. matchup. Westport fired 48 shots at Cougars’ netminder Frederick Durocher-Bourdon, who stood on his head in goal and got the victory. The Cougars did their part as well, firing more than 40 shots of their own at the Westport net.

The Cougars looked really good on Saturday. They are a fast team with a solid defense and the forwards have the ability to put the puck in the net. They will be a great team for fans to watch this season.

In the 2 p.m. contest, the defending NCJHL champion Clarence Castors came out on top in a back-and-forth 7-6 shootout with the Morrisburg Lions. The Lions, are another team that looks to be much improved over the off season and should be able to make some noise this year.

The Gatineau-Hull Volant topped the St. Isidore Eagles 2-1 in a more defensive contest in the 4:30 p.m. game. St.Isidore started off strong at the beginning of the game and it was pretty even back-and-forth play throughout.

In the final matchup of the day at 7 p.m., the South Grenville Rangers and North Dundas Rockets met up in what was an eventual 2-1 win for the South Grenville team. This was another good game and both teams gave good accounts of themselves.

This looks to be a great upcoming 2022-2023 NCJHL season. The teams which rose to the top in 2021-2022 appear to be strong again and all of the other clubs look to have improved. I watched 12 periods of hockey last Saturday at the showcase in Gatineau, plus some overtime games, and every one was a great matchup and saw some really good hockey played.

As a side note, the refereeing at the NCJHL Showcase was excellent in all the games. It was good hockey to watch.

Based on the play I saw last weekend, I would say Vankleek Hill, Almonte and Gatineau look like the top three teams in the league going into the season, but there’s a long way to go yet. It’s certainly not going to be a cakewalk for any team this year.

Vankleek Hill, Clarence complete major trade involving four players

The Vankleek Hill Cougars and Clarence Castors completed a major trade in the NCJHL last week.

The Cougars sent L’Orignal native and top defenseman Chris Quann, along with forward Jérémy Marcotte to Clarence in return for high scoring forward Mikael Bissonnette and forward Cédrik Bisson. The two key players in the deal were Bissonnette, who will add much-needed firepower up front for the Cougars, and Quann, who Clarence hopes will bolster the team’s back end.

“We felt that we had to upgrade up front for scoring, because we lost a lot of goal scorers from last year,” said Cougars head coach Franky Dopelhamer of the trade, adding it was difficult to to trade Quann, who was one of the team’s best defenders. “We had to give up one of our top defenseman in Chris Quann, which was really hard because Chris is local and has been here all along.”

Dopelhamer said he spoke with Quann and the player understood the situation and was okay with going to the Castors.

Quann played eight games for Vankleek Hill last season and had two assists, while anchoring the team’s back end. The 5′ 9” 167-pound Marcotte played 13 games for the Cougars during the 2021-2022 season, recording nine goals and seven assists for 16 points.

The trade has already paid dividends for both teams. Bissonnette had two goals in his first game with the Cougars in their 4-1 win over Westport, while Quann recorded an assist in the Castors 7-6 victory over Morrisburg.

The 20-year-old Bissonnette had joined Clarence this season after playing for the Gatineau Flames of the Quebec Junior Hockey League during the past two seasons. He had 10 goals and 11 assists in 31 games for the Flames in 2021-2022.

This is one of those trades that should be good for both teams. The Cougars are strong on defense and needed scoring help, while the already high-powered Castors were looking for someone to anchor their defense. Both teams got their wish.

Known as Vankleek Hill’s Sports Authority, Mackenzie Hinton writes regular sports updates on his popular Facebook page. Mac is the statistician for the Vankleek Hill Cougars, Hawkesbury Hawks, and Alexandria Glens Junior hockey clubs. His column appears weekly in The Review.