Rockets match up against Panthers in championship final series

The North Dundas Rockets are shown in their March 8 game against the Vankleek Hill Cougars. The Rockets took the game 5-1, clinching the series 4-0 and a spot at the upcoming NCJHL final, where they will face the Embrun Panthers. Courtesy photo

Game 1 goes this Friday in Embrun

CHESTERVILLE — The North Dundas Rockets and Embrun Panthers lace ’em up this Friday for the first game of the National Capital Junior Hockey League championship series.

It’s a return to the final for the Panthers, which wound up dropping the 2016 series 4-2 to Papineauville.

But it’s a first trip to the NCJHL championship for the Rockets since Jr. C hockey returned to Chesterville a few years ago. Local sports fans may recall 1986 as the last time a Chesterville-based team made it to the Jr. C final.

“I’m thrilled. That was our goal this year, to bring winning back to Chesterville,” said Rockets General Manager Rob Sadler.

North Dundas powered their way to the championship by declawing another cat-themed team — the Cougars — notching a 4-0 record in the Round 2 semi-finals against the Vankleek Hill squad last week.

Game 1 in the match-up against the Panthers kicks off 8 p.m. this Friday, March 17, in Embrun.

“From an organizational standpoint, obviously, we are excited about getting the series underway with Embrun, and feel that it’s going to be a hard-fought process whatever the outcome may be,” Sadler also remarked in an email congratulating the players “for competing at an exceptionally high level over the past two series, they’ve been challenged by myself, ownership and the coaching staff continually and in some cases, bluntly.”

Added Sadler, “Ultimately it’s the players hard work that has given us a chance to compete for the championship.  Every player on the team is contributing to the best of their ability, and I am proud of them all.   From the second half of the year on we felt we had the right team to win on paper, it’s been great to see that team playing on the ice the past few weeks.  We are in the final stretch of the marathon and are in a great position to finish strong.

“I would like to thank all those who have supported us throughout the playoff run, without the community support this run of success is for nothing.  We are looking forward to have a good effort against Embrun, hopefully, as an organization, we can make you all proud.”

Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday, March 18, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop in Chesterville.

Games 3 and 4 are respectively scheduled Friday, March 24, 8 p.m. puck drop in Embrun; and Game 4, Saturday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. puck drop in Chesterville.

If necessary, the series will see Game 5 (Sunday, March 26, in Embrun, 1:30 p.m.), and Game 6 (date yet to be determined, in Chesterville).

The Rockets will also be hawking their annual $20 banquet tickets during the series. That event is set for April 2 at the Chesterville Legion, and all are welcome to attend the buffet-style supper.

Incidentally, the 1986 bench that last captured the championship for Chesterville included Brad Droppo, Kevin Byers, Terry Barkley, Darren Kelly, Kevin Moore, Ken Byers, Mike Harper, Greg Van Dellan, Pete van Kessel, Jamie Cheney, Jerrold Boulanger, Todd Findlay, Rene Boulanger, Vince Cousineau, Mark Guy, Carl Bartholomew, Sam Gibson and John Guy.

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