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Rayside Balfour Canadians sweep weekend series

Cameron Lamour returns to Canadians net after OHL stint
The Rayside Balfour Canadians earned a pair of wins over the weekend, beating the Blind River Beavers twice in a home and home set of games. (File)

Things, quite honestly, could not have worked out a whole lot better for GM Jeff Forsyth and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.

The sequence of events that would follow the surprise ascension of former Canadians' goaltending stalwart David Bowen to the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QJMHL was about as fortuitous as it gets.

"On Tuesday (Oct. 29), I met with David and at that point, he mentioned that he was headed to Drummondville and we supported that decision," said Forsyth. "That's our job, to help players move players on to the next level."

Losing a number one goalie who had played in more than 40 games in just over one season in Rayside was something of a concern. That feeling was heightened given the fact that 17 year-old Nicholas Heinzle, a 13th round pick of the Sudbury Wolves in 2018 and the remaining goaltender in Rayside-Balfour, was likely best suited to a role in which he could be mentored by a more experienced junior netminder.

"On Thursday (Oct. 31), we started communicating with the Sarnia Sting and everything went quickly," said Forsyth. "We were targeting a couple of different guys, and I can tell you that Cameron Lamour was not one of those guys."

Lest that be misinterpreted, the point that the first year GM was making was simply that the Canadians did not expect Lamour, a local product with more than 50 games of OHL experience under his belt, to be available and/or open to returning to a team on which he played the second half of the 2016-2017 campaign.

"It's such a weird sequence of events that happened," said Forsyth. "Losing a guy like David Bowen, who was so important to our hockey team, and then 48 hours later, having a chance to bring in a guy like Cameron Lamour to replace David Bowen - it's like going with 1A and 1B."

The key, for Forsyth and the Canadians management, was that they were acquiring a 19 year old who was both motivated, and excited, to be returning home. 

"In our conversations, Cameron just said that he is looking forward to playing," said Forsyth. "He wants to play. For me, that was just a big exclamation mark on Cameron Lamour."

"I'm very grateful to still be playing hockey at this age," said Lamour, prior to his first start with Rayside-Balfour, a tough 3-2 loss to the Timmins Rock last Thursday. 

"Just because this is not OHL, doesn't mean it's the end of my career, or an end to what I can do in the future. I'm hanging on to the success stories I have heard throughout my years of playing of guys who came back and worked harder and ended up making it in the end." 

Certainly, the native of Naughton and product largely of the Nickel City Hockey Association is a different goaltender than when he left in March of 2017.

Furthermore, there is something of a contrast in play from the league in which he has resided for the past two seasons as a member of both the Saginaw Spirit and the Sarnia Sting, and the league to which he is returning.

"I don't think I will have to make too many adjustments," he said. "It's all about positioning, putting yourself in the right spot. The one thing that I have noticed as a difference between the NOJHL and the OHL is that the NOJHL is a little more rambunctious on the ice, a little less controlled, so I might have to be a little more scrambly in my play, just being ready for anything to happen."

For a well-spoken young man who was never quite able to secure a number one status at the next level, the opportunity in Rayside means everything. 

"I'm just very excited," said Lamour. "I haven't been 'the guy' in who knows how long, so I am really looking forward to it. I have learned a lot more about just taking care of my body, stretching, eating right, making sure I get enough sleep, making sure that I am ready to go with an extensive game schedule that there is here."

So far, so good. Following a 41-save performance in the setback on Thursday, Lamour was back between the pipes Sunday evening in Chelmsford, leading the Canadians to a 2-1 win over the Blind River Beavers, thanks in part to another 35 saves for the local puck-stopper, a performance which earned him first star honours.

In between his two starts, Rayside squeezed in a wild 6-5 shootout win Saturday night in Blind River. Oliver Smith, Avery Chisholm, Mitchell Martin, Gavin Brown and Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis scored in regulation time for the Canadians, with Lucas Adams, Jack Tos, Justin Mauro, Caleb Serré and Nathan Balkwill replying for the Beavers, that last goal coming with just one second to play in the game.

Following a five-minute three on three session, the teams proceeded to a shootout, where Gavin Brown scored on the third attempt for Rayside. Visiting goaltender Nicholas Heinzle, however, was forced to make four saves, when it was deemed that Caleb Serré's first penalty shot was subject to interference from the Rayside-Balfour bench, allowing the Blind River captain a do-over, one on which he was denied, for a second time, by Heinzle.

It was a much more low-scoring affair the next day in the back end of the home and home as Gavin Brown and Dylan Bertrand hit the mark for Rayside in the first period, with Caleb Serré halving the deficit in the second for the Beavers, before Lamour would shut the door.

It was a situation that Jeff Forsyth would love to see replayed many times over, quite content with the mix of talent that he has assembled with the local juniors. 

"We're happy with where we are today," he said. "If we got to January with this roster, we would be very confident moving forward."

Beyond the recent pick-up of Cameron Lamour, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians did have one other transaction of note, sending veteran forward Jett Leishman to the Thunder Bay North Stars of the SIJHL, the Thunder Bay native apparently seeking an opportunity to return home.