This was an significant game for the Junior de Montreal for two reasons. One, being that the team they were facing was ahead of them in the standings and two, because this was to mark the season debut of team poster boy Angelo Esposito. It was a game that could distinguish contenders from pretenders and spark a bigger interest in the team due to the addition of a bonafide star.
Angelo Esposito had just been cut during the latter stages of the training camp of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and had to return, due to his age, to his junior team this week. We would have to wait to see if Esposito would take this as incentive to come back to junior and work harder to show the Thrashers that they had made a mistake or if he would sulk about the demotion.
During his rookie year two season ago he tore up the QMJHL and was mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Sidney Crosby. During his second season his production tailed off and his stock plummeted. For a young man who was previously touted to be the potential number one draft choice suddenly he was off NHL scouts' radars. He did go in the first round of last year's draft, but lower than everyone, especially Esposito himself, thought. Esposito was drafted 20th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins then later traded to the Atlanta Thrashers. Now he was in Montreal (his hometown) with our new junior team and has already seen a few more ups and downs than your average 19-year-old. How he would react was at the forefront of the minds of all in attendance (and due to the Esposito factor the crowd was bigger than last Friday's game).
Esposito was centering the starting line with Nick Layton and Samuel Grenache on his wings. The very first time he touched the puck he was stripped of it and Bathurst had a scoring chance. Welcome back to the Q, Angelo!
Montreal scored first and early off good forechecking by the line of Pier-Antoine Dion, Louis-Marc Aubry and Mattheu Brenton. This line dominated down low and cycled the puck for long stretches during their shifts in the first period. Dion scored his fourth of the year on passes from Aubry and Brenton.
Don't be misled into thinking that an early goal meant that the Junior were flying. In actuality the whole first period was slow and plagued by plenty of penalties (4 for Montreal and 1 for Bathurst) and whistles. Neither team was able to get much flow going. Montreal sabotaged any chance at gaining momentum by its constant trips to the sin bin.
Bathurst tied up the affair in the 10th minute on a defensive breakdown by the Junior and a wicked wrist shot by Eric Faille (also his fourth goal) with the assist going to Tomy Joly. The penalties finally caught up with the Montreal team when Bathurst cashed in in the final minute of the period (always a back breaker) on the power play with defenseman Drew Paris (from Eric Faille and captain Spencer Jezegou) scoring his first goal of the season.
The period ended with Montreal down 2-1 and they fully deserved to be. Bathurst seemed to have more jump than Montreal. The local team was out of sync with plenty of penalties due to poor positioning and lots of passes hitting skates instead of stick blades.
This lack of cohesion forced coach Pascal Vincent to juggle his lines to start the 2nd period. He was looking for some combination that would work. The changes seemed to spark the Junior as they scored a goal in the 7th minute to tie up the game. A great pass on the power play from defenseman Alex Wall found Louis-Marc Aubry all alone in front of Bathurst goaltender Nicolas Champion and he buried it.
Should we be hopeful? Was Montreal finding their game? Nope…unfortunately the lack of cohesion continued for the rest of the uneventful 2nd period. Goaltender Jake Allen even had to come to the rescue making four brilliant saves around the middle of the period to keep the contest locked at 2-2.
Going into the 3rd period the Junior had to be thinking that they had better pick up their play as this was their last home game before they go on a Thanksgiving season five game roadtrip. Well, that thinking did not exactly work as the Titans scored early in the third with Vincent Couture (3rd goal of the season) scoring a flukey goal off a bad bounce off the endboards. Were the Junior's spirits broken by this early and bad goal? No, as they replied quickly with one of their own just over a minute later. Samuel Grenache scored and this seesaw battle was all tied up again.
After some better play and imposing their style of game more in the offensive zone, Montreal scored on the power play at 10:54 on a pretty cross-ice pass from (finally) Angelo Esposito to Nick Layton, who one-timed it into the back of the net before goaltender Champion had a chance to move over. These two seemed to build some good chemistry as the game wore on and it makes me think that they will only get better as the season goes on. The last 9 minutes just ticked away on the clock without Bathurst really getting another sniff at the net.
Montreal won the game 4-3 without really playing their best. I think, on a positive note, that a team cannot play brilliantly the whole season and there are bound to be highs and lows. But it seems to me that it is a sign of a good team when they can win while playing way below their capabilities. Especially against a team ahead of you in the standings. With the win Montreal moves into 7th place in the league and just below…you guessed it – the Acadie-Bathurst Titans.
Be with Orcasound for the Junior de Montreal's next home game on October 17th against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
-On Ice Officials: Referees: Dominick Bedard and Marc Muylaert
Linesmen: Dominic Tessier and Jonathan Cantin
-Goals: 1st Period:
2:20 – Montreal: Pier-Antoine Dion assisted by Louis-Marc Aubry and Matthew Brenton
10:15 – Bathurst: Eric Faille assisted by Tomy Jolie
19:46 – Bathurst: (pp) Drew Paris assisted by Eric Faille and Spencer Jezegou
7:02 – Montreal: (pp) Louis-Marc Aubry assisted by Alex Wall and Pat O'Keefe
1:32 – Bathurst: Vincent Couture assisted by Cameron Critchlow
2:37 – Montreal: Samuel Grenache assisted by Pat O'Keefe and Nick Layton
10:54 – Montreal: (pp) Nick Layton assisted by Angelo Esposito and T.J. Brennan
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 33
-Three Stars: 1) Louis-Marc Aubry
2) Eric Faille
3) Nick Layton