Coming off a string of 3 losses in a row the team confidence seemed at an all-time low. Losing against lower ranked teams than yours does not help. Unfortunately on this Sunday afternoon things were not going to get any easier for the Junior. This is gut-check time for the team to see if they are serious about what they are doing and making this a successful inaugural season in Montreal. They have the talent; they just have to believe in themselves and put in the work required.
Their opposition was the Baie Comeau Drakkars another team lower than them in the standings, but that means nothing. Baie Comeau is last in the Telus Eastern Division with only 16 wins in 52 games, but 9 of their wins have come on the road. The teams have met only one time previously (here in Montreal) and the Drakkars won 3-2 in a shootout. It is time for the Montreal team to start picking up points against the weaker teams.
Once again there were a couple of changes in the Montreal lineup. Defenceman and assistant captain T.J. Brennan received a match penalty in the last game against Gatineau (a 7-5 loss for Montreal) for elbowing a Gatineau player in the head. He is now on the sidelines watching to see if he is suspended and for how many games. The Junior will certainly miss his great shot and defence-leading 29 points.
In the game the night before against Gatineau Luke Adam was moved off the 1st line and was centering a line with Guillaume Asselin and Jérémy Gouchie. This makes sense as it gives the team a more balanced attack and two legitimate lines that can score. Let's see if taking Adam out of Esposito's shadow will rattle his cage. He does not seem to play his best when paired with Angelo Esposito – for whatever reason. However, your best players have to be your best players – no matter who they line up with. Esposito has done so and Adam has to do the same.
We this team would know right from the beginning how they would respond to its latest slump. It was a good sign to see that the Junior had good energy to start the game. Luke Adam was looking better with his new linemates. Pier-Antoine Dion had a good scoring chance (hit the crossbar) on a nice individual effort. Goaltender Jake Allen, who has had his difficulties lately, made a big save early off a partial break by Guillaume Goulet. The crowd got into it early and the place was rocking.
Montreal rewarded the crowd's exuberance by scoring the first goal. Matt Fillier scored his 13th of the season off of a nice feed from Nick Layton. He found himself all alone in front of the Drakkars goaltender Nathan Dunnett (formerly of Drummondville) and slipped the puck through the 5-hole on the backhand. Nice play all around and for once the Junior had scored the first goal in a game. Things were looking up.
Building on their strong play of the 1st period Montreal doubled their lead to 2-0 on a power play goal by Angelo Esposito. Their struggling power play (ranked 4th from the bottom in the league) looked good with nice, crisp puck movement and good pressure.
The only worrisome thing was that centre Luke Adam did not come out for the 2nd period. Several members of the team have been battling the flu lately. Chris Thorne and Pat O'Keefe have been sick and Luke Adam was complaining of not feeling well during the day. I guess he finally had to give up the fight.
Quicker than you can say "tied game" the Drakkars evened the score with two goals within a span of 1 minute. The second being from a severe angle and going over Allen's shoulder while he was down on his knees. Not his finest moment! For a team battling with self-confidence this couldn't have been good. But to their credit the team kept their heads and stayed with the game plan. Matthew Brenton put the home team ahead for good with his goal from Asselin and Gouchie at 17:17 of the 2nd period. This was exactly what the doctor ordered – secondary scoring and hustle.
Again to their credit they did not just sit on the lead, but continued to push forward. In the 3rd they really limited the shots by the Drakkars. It was a bit of tight collar time when Gouchie got a holding penalty with less than 3 minutes left. The Drakkars pulled their goaltender to get a 2-man advantage, but Montreal potted an empty net goal to seal the deal.
This was a good team effort by the Junior and here's to hoping that they can continue to give this kind of effort game in and game out for the rest of the season. The talent is there they just have to believe in themselves.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Pascal St-Jacques and Stéphane Tremblay
Linesmen: Sylvain Losier and Jonathan Cantin
-Goals: 1st Period:
15:32 – Montreal – Matt Fillier assisted by Nick Layton
1:04 – Montreal – (pp) Angelo Esposito assisted by Nick Layton and Dmitri Kostromitin
4:36 – Baie Comeau – Guillaume Goulet assisted by Félix Petit
5:35 – Baie Comeau – Emrik Guillmette assisted by Charles Vouligny
17:17 – Montreal – Matthew Brenton assisted by Guillaume Asselin and Jérémy Gouchie
19:21 – Montreal – (en + sh) Philippe Fontaine assisted by Darick Ste.Marie
-3 Stars: 1) Matthew Brenton – Montreal
2) Guillaume Goulet – Baie Comeau
3) Nick Layton – Montreal