Sports teams usually find themselves all about a little good news and a little bad news. This certainly is the case with the Junior de Montreal. Over the Thanksgiving holiday period the team embarked on a five game road trip; their first long one of the season. On this roadtrip offence was at a premium and the team found themselves struggling to put the puck in the net. They were shutout on several occasions. The good news is that despite a rough roadtrip the Junior de Montreal still find themselves in a first place tie atop the Telus Western (how is Montreal in the Western Division?) Division. The team they are tied with by coincidence was their opposition on this evening, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Welcome home boys! This was not going to be a cakewalk.
The task of defeating the Huskies was going to be even more difficult because team member Samuel Grenache is out injured due to a separated shoulder. Grenache plays a tough game and that is exactly what the team would need against the physical Rouyn-Noranda team. Grenache's place in the lineup would be filled by rookie centreman Chris Smith.
The Junior de Montreal, seemingly buoyed by a large crowd and the comfortable confines of their home rink, came out flying. They really took the game to the Huskies during the first period, who were having trouble, especially on defence, keeping up with swift skating Junior. Montreal ended their almost 130 minute goalless drought with a power play goal off a scramble by Nick Layton. Did this mean that they had their confidence back? We would soon find out.
Keeping the pressure on, Montreal struck again three minutes later with Luke Adam scoring off a nice one touch pass from the offensively gifted Angelo Esposito. Going with basically three lines, as the Chris Smith, Chris Thorne and Samuel Fortier line only got one shift per period, Montreal was getting plenty of opportunities on the power play due to their speed being too much to handle for the Huskies' defence.
The Montreal domination continued for most of the first period with Rouyn-Noranda coming on a little at the end after a crunching blow courtesy of defenceman Marc-Andre Bourdon along the boards to Angelo Esposito. Esposito remained on the ice and once the whistle blew the trainer had to come out to tend to him. The Montreal forward had his proverbial bell rung and had to be helped off the ice by two of his teammates.
Right off the ensuing faceoff Montreal captain Mattheu Fillier stood up for his teammate by dropping his gloves against Bourdon. Much to the chagrin of the crowd a fight never developed as a linesman stepped in the middle of the two. Each man was given a two minute cooling off period for delay of game. Somehow I did not believe they were done and a skirmish at the end of the period convinced me of that. The physical stuff was going to continue.
Due to their recent offensive woes Montreal could ill-afford to lose their number one offensive player in Esposito and we collectively breathed a sigh of relief when he was on the ice to start the second period. Montreal scored another goal by Guillaume Asselin from Vincent Bourgeois in the fifth minute and seemed to have control over the game with a 3-0 lead. But they do not say that this is the worst lead in hockey for nothing.
When captain Fillier and Bourdon found themselves on the ice together again the fight they both seemed to want finally happened. Right after their dust up Chris Thorne put a heavy open ice hit on Nicolas Deslauriers and was quickly jumped by Benoit Gervais. Thorne held his own during the fight, but the game was quickly changing from hockey to WWF.
This played right into the hands of the Huskies and the game changed from this moment on. Montreal was now second to every puck and running around after the Huskies rather than being the team that dictated the play. Rouyn-Noranda scored two quick goals in the middle of the second period to make it tight collar time for Montreal fans. Montreal started taking penalties and giving up scoring chances to the Huskies.
Goalie Jake Allen was forced to make several big time saves over the final period and a half, but somehow Montreal was able to hang on to its 3-2 lead. A victory is a victory and these were an important two points for the team. Montreal now was alone on top of the Western Division standings. One thing that they should take away from this game is that they will not be able to play for one period and come out with a win against the strong Cape Breton team at their game happening the next afternoon.
-On Ice Officials: Referee: Mathieu Cote
Linesmen: Olivier Cimon and Jonathan Cantin
-Goals: 1st Period:
2:36 – Montreal: (pp) Nick Layton assisted by Luke Adam and T.J. Brennan
5:50 – Montreal: Luke Adam assisted by Nick Layton and Angelo Esposito
5:38 – Montreal: (pp) Guillaume Asselin assisted by Vincent Bourgeois
11:28 – Rouyn-Noranda: Jarrad Struthers assisted by Pier-Luc Champagne
13:05 – Rouyn-Noranda: (pp) Benjamin Lecompte assisted by Sergey Ostapchuk and Gabriel Levesque
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 23
-Three Stars: 1) Jake Allen
2) Angelo Esposito
3) Benjamin Lecompte