Rockets ‘turnover’ championship but inspire pride

The Rockets’ Launch Pad

by Rob Sadler 
North Dundas Rockets General Manager

This past weekend the North Dundas Rockets faced off against the Embrun Panthers in games three, four and five of the NCJHL finals; unfortunately, there will not be a sixth game.  The Panthers won the league Championship at home Sunday afternoon with an 8 to 4 victory.   As an organization we would like to extend our congratulations to the Panthers, their executive and coaching staff on a hard-played series that was truly a stepping stone for our organization.

The difference in the series really came down to experience and special teams.  Embrun never gave up and consistently pressured us everywhere on the ice making it difficult for our team to exit the defensive zone and keep them off the scoreboard.  Aside from turnovers in our own end, we allowed multiple shorthanded goals and failed to get our power play firing on all cylinders in critical situations.  We had opportunities in game 3 and 4 to steal wins and were not able to withstand the relentless efforts of the opposition.

Despite the result, as General Manager I am proud of the kids on our team for their efforts; there is not a player in our locker room that didn’t challenge themselves and compete which is all I could ask for.  Embrun had a group of players on their team that had been to the two previous finals and that experience showed in the series against us.  On a positive note, now we are going to have a core group of guys returning next year that got a taste of what it takes to win, which is a great start to the upcoming 2017-18 season that isn’t that far away.

We would like to congratulate Brandon Mullin and Liam Morrow, the two overaged players on our roster on finishing their careers as part of a great playoff run.  I would also like to thank our coaching staff James Kirkwood and Lenard McLean for their work this year.  Duane Young was exceptional in looking after our equipment and Donnie Helder was a reliable trainer for the year, which is very hard to find.  Everybody on this team made sacrifices and re-worked various life situations to try an be a part of this run, Bryden van Kessel and James Kirkwood were driving, in some cases, 10-12 hours a weekend to get back for games, guys were rescheduling work shifts, putting family stuff on hold and in some cases literally coming right from work to the rink to play at some of the odd times we had scheduled.  All of those efforts were noticed and appreciated by our organization.  In looking at this team after the fact, I wouldn’t change a thing; if it was in the cards, I would take another run at it next year with the same group of kids; we had a great group of characters this year.

The most encouraging aspect of the playoff run was the overwhelming support of the North Dundas Community, truly something that I will not forget, and I am sure the players on our team feel the same way.  It was incredible to see the packed arena, to participate in the buzz around town, and to see the continuous social media posts hoping for a good showing.   Ultimately this season was a success for our organization and we hope the community is proud of what we brought to the rink; I know we (the organization) were proud to have you all behind us.

Thank you to the sponsors who invested time and money in us this year; without the support of local businesses operating this team is not possible.

Congratulations to the NCJHL and its executive Ian Mcrea, Hubert Seguin, Richard Charet, Jim Powell and Jeff Moore for running another outstanding year of junior hockey.  We wish you guys all the best and relaxation of the summer, a well deserved hiatus I hope.

Also, thanks are in order to Nelson Zandbergen for allowing me to vent every week in Nation Valley News, as well as to Al Van Bridger of the Winchester Press and Jeff Moore of the Chesterville Record for their great coverage of our team this year on a weekly basis.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Kevin Byers and Kent Young for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization as its General Manager; hopefully we can win the last game of the season next year.

Our annual banquet is being held at the Chesterville Legion April 2nd, beverages starting at 1 p.m. with a buffet supper at 3 p.m.  All are welcome to attend; tickets are on sale at the door that day as well.  At the banquet, we will be handing out the yearly team awards and taking some time to unwind and relax a bit following a long season.

Next week will be the final addition of the Rockets’ Launch Pad for this season in which I will outline the team award winners and the events of the banquet.

Have a great week.

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