Coming off a poor outing against Acadie-Bathurst this past Wednesday and starting off a string of three games in three nights, Junior de Montreal head coach Pascal Vincent must have been looking to shake things up to get his team out of the present doldrums. He did so on two fronts. First, he decided to start backup goaltender Jean -François Bérubé instead of standout Jake Allen. Second, with the arrival of new player Toni Ritter of Germany (wearing number 23) he decided to sit down forward Chris Thorne. We would just have to be patient and see if these changes would bear any fruit.
The newest Junior de Montreal Ritter is a tall (he's listed as 6'3", but looks taller), rangy guy with decent speed. Coach Vincent must be hoping that Ritter could inject some offence into a team that at different points this season has had plenty of trouble scoring goals. This guy must have offensive upside because he was inserted on to the number one line with Angelo Esposito and Luke Adam.
Right from the beginning Montreal bore little resemblance to the lethargic team of Wednesday night. There was plenty of zip in their game and they were hitting hard, working diligently and skating fast. It is a good game from both sides from the drop of the puck until the ending siren. This game turns out to be one of the better all-around games that the Montreal fans have seen yet this year.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves…after creating several good scoring chances on a power play, halfway through the first period Montreal had to kill one off of their own. They were very lucky not to be down one goal as a Rocket shot eluded Bérubé, but defenceman T.J. Brennan cleared it off the goal line. Phew! Though the first period ended scoreless it was a positive one for the Junior as they outshot their opponents 18-14 and the Esposito line along with the Nick Layton line (Layton, Guillaume Asselin and Pier-Antoine Dion) were creating scoring chances.
The second period also ended scoreless, but there were several positives about the Montreal team. Rookie centreman Chris Smith continued his improved play and made things happen (even drew a penalty) with plenty of hustle, goaltender Bérubé (though not overly busy) was making good saves when called upon, defenceman Vincent Bourgeois is slowly becoming an offensive threat on a team that sorely needs it, winger Matthew Brenton was continuing his relentless forechecking that was causing some turnovers, and captain Matt Fillier was hitting everything that moved in a red shirt. It was a night where many were contributing.
At the beginning of the third period Rocket forward Chris Doyle put his team in hot water when he checked defenceman Alex Wall into the boards from behind (thankfully he was just shaken up) and rightfully received a 5 minute major and the automatic game misconduct that goes along with it at 1:24. The Junior now had a golden opportunity with a five minute power play. And to everyone's relief (mostly the players, I'm sure) defenceman Pat O'Keefe made Doyle pay for his dirty hit by scoring on an unassisted goal on a shot from the blue line. Finally, the Junior had scored after a drought that lasted more than 5 periods.
Thankfully for the sake of all Junior's fans' hearts the team did not fall into a defensive shell after taking the 1-0 lead. They continued pressing and created several more good scoring chances. The game also got a little chippy after the goal with almost every whistle resulting in a melee and several penalties being called on both sides.
During the last third of the last period the P.E.I. team upped the pressure on Montreal, but goaltender Bérubé was up to the challenge. He would make the first save and the Montreal defence cleared the rebounds, if there were any. Despite a late penalty to Luke Adam for tripping with just under a minute left in the game and the Rocket pulling their goaltender the Junior de Montreal were able to hold on for a much deserved and needed win.
Next game is tomorrow night in Gatineau and they finish off the weekend back at home against the very strong Moncton Wildcats.
-On-Ice Officials: Referee: Johnathan Trudel
Linesmen: Harold Dorvil, Jonathan Cantin
-Goals: 3rd Period:
2:30 – Montreal: (pp) Pat O'Keefe unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 41
-3 Stars: 1) Jean-François Bérubé – Montreal
2) Bobby Nadeau – P.E.I.
3) Pat O'Keefe – Montreal