You have to wonder if the Drummondville Voltigeurs' team motto shouldn't be "Don't hate us because we're beautiful". Because beautiful they were in their 7-3 dismantling of the Montreal Juniors at the Verdun Auditorium on Friday night.
You don't have to know much about hockey to understand that the Juniors would need their "A" game just to keep pace with the team that, going into Friday's contest, held down first place overall in the Q and boasted a gaudy 30.9% power play efficiency rating. The Voltigeurs were 35 points ahead of Montreal in the standings and counted three players in the top ten in scoring. A fourth player was sitting at number eleven. Montreal had one player, Nick Layton, in the top 20.
Early on, it looked like Montreal might do more than just keep pace. Matthew Brenton took advantage of some confusion on the Drummondville D and beat goalie Marco Cousineau to give the home team a 1-0 lead just 1:07 into the game. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.
Drummondville tied things up less than a minute later and, with Montreal on the power play, they forced Juniors' goalie Jake Allen to make three consecutive brilliant saves to keep his team in the game. (That's not a typo: Montreal was on the power play and the Voltigeurs had three golden opportunities to take the lead. They were just that good.) Allen wound up facing 26 shots (including a penalty shot) in the first period while his teammates could only throw five at Cousineau. For comparison's sake, it should be pointed out that Allen usually has to deal with about 34 shots per game.
The Voltiguers scored two more in the second period, but Montreal managed to limit them to 16 shots, while taking 18 of their own. The score was 4-1, but the game was not out of reach as the Juniors seem to be settling down and finding a rhythm.
The third period would prove to be Montreal's undoing. Cousineau made a couple of nice saves to blank Montreal on a power play early in the period and Philippe Lefebvre and Mike Hoffman scored within four minutes of each other to give the Voltiguers a 5-1 lead. Nick Layton scored on a bouncer that surprised Cousineau, but Hoffman quickly notched his second of the night and 46th of the year and Couturier added his second of the night to make it 7-2 with less than ten minutes to play. Jérémy Gouchie netted a goal on the power play at 16:25 to round out the scoring for Montreal.
It would be easy to assume from the score and the shot totals (52-35 for Drummondville) that Montreal played badly. They did not. They made some bad plays and there were moments in the game where they appeared to be playing badly, but it was simply because Drummondville was so good. They were fast, organized, methodical, hardworking and, above all, relentless. They simply came at Montreal in waves, overwhelming them. But to their credit, at no point did the Juniors give up on the game. They could easily have folded their tent and looked ahead to taking out their frustrations on Lewiston on Sunday afternoon. Instead, they played hard to the final whistle. And if they bring the same determination and work ethic to the rink on Sunday, it may be a very long afternoon for the MAINEiacs.
-The Juniors are back at it on Sunday when they take on the lowly Lewiston MAINEiacs in a 4:30pm start at the Verdun Auditorium. They're home to Chicoutimi Tuesday, March 3rd. Game time is 7pm.
-All Allen, All the Time: Jake Allen's ridiculously busy first period included a penalty shot. He stoned World Juniors gold medal winner Christopher DiDomenico with a mere eight seconds remaining in the period.
-If one trumpeter is good…a whole military concert band would be even better! Throughout the game, the sell out crowd of 3 780 was treated to the music of a band made up of members of the 34th Group Brigade Canada and the 6th Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment. A colour guard from the 34th Brigade took part in the ceremonial opening face-off and members of the Canadian Forces distributed "thunder sticks", mini hockey sticks and tossed mini footballs into the crowd, much to the delight of the many small fry in attendance.
-Oh, Canada! Eleven year old Alexandra Cohen delivered a fine version of our national anthem.
-Props to Ste-Julie/Beloeil: It was Ste-Julie/Beloeil Hockey Day at the Verdun Auditorium and the communities did themselves proud, especially given the iffy weather and tricky driving conditions. The stands were full and the fans were loud and enthusiastic.
-Cheerio, McGill: A boisterous group of McGill students made Section 3 the place to be. They were on their feet a good part of the game and their "thunder stick" choreography was a sight to behold. They counted among their group soccer players and students from England and helped create an atmosphere worthy of the beautiful game.
-Golden Ice bag Award: How good are the Drummondville Voltigeurs? With three seconds left in the game and his team up by four goals, Sean Couturier blocked a shot while killing a penalty. He fell to the ice writhing in pain but managed to stay on. Still not able to put much weight on his right leg, he glided to the opposite end of the rink to congratulate his goalie when the final horn sounded. And did we mention he was the game's first star?
Honourable mention goes to Montreal's Chris Thorne who, with the Juniors trailing 3-1 in the second, sacrificed his reproductive health to block a shot.
1) Sean Couturier, Drummondville
2) Mike Hoffman, Drummondville
3) Yannick Riendeau, Drummondville
Shots on Goal:
On Ice Officials:
Referee: Jean Hébert
Linesmen: Harold Dorvil, Serge Carpentier
1:07 Montreal Matthew Brenton, unassisted
2:05 Drummondville Sean Couturier assisted by Charles Landry
3:47 Drummondville Gabriel Dumont assisted by Marc-Olivier Vachon and Sean Couturier
3:47 Drummondville Jonathan Brunelle assisted by Samson Mahbod
4:58 Drummondville Philippe Lefebvre assisted by Yannick Riendeau
9:01 Drummondville Mike Hoffman assisted by Yannick Riendeau and Dmitry Kulikov
9:53 Montreal Nick Layton assisted by Matt Fillier and Dmitri Kostromintin
10:23 Drummondville Mike Hoffman assisted by Samson Mahbod and Christopher DiDomenico
10:39 Drummondville Sean Couturier assisted by Dany Massé and Charles Landry
16:25 Montreal Jérémy Gouchie assisted by Louis-Marc Aubry and Dmitri Kostromintin