Throughout a long hockey season no matter how good a team is there are plenty of lessons to learn along the way. Though the Junior de Montreal is a fairly veteran team for the QMJHL they are still young men who are for the most part still teenagers. Sometimes maturity is lacking and they will go through bouts of brainlessness. And those lessons are sometimes learned the hard way.
It was pretty much déjà vu Sunday afternoon in the team's encounter with the Val D'Or Foreurs. Friday night the Junior had leapt out to a 2-0 lead against Chicoutimi only to fritter away said lead. Luckily they were able to pull out the victory in a shootout. Luck is a fickle friend they say and that was proven in the Junior's most recent game.
They started off again with a 2-0 lead courtesy of two 1st period goals by Nicholas Chouinard, a garbage goal on the power play, and Louis Leblanc. Leblanc's was one of the prettiest goals of the season so far. He showed his breakaway speed on the play blowing by the Foreurs right at the end of a penalty kill then used his strength to protect the puck as he closed in on goaltender Jacob Gervais-Chouinard finally he used his noggin to force Gervais-Chouinard to move first and then just slid it five-hole on him. Pretty!
At this point everyone in the building (except for the Foreurs) believed the game to be over. The Junior's opponents were playing the third of three games in 72 hours against la crème de la crème of the QMJHL. They had already beaten Drummondville Friday night then lost to Quebec in overtime on Saturday night. The Foreurs would logically be a tired team and their legs would get heavier and heavier as the game progressed, no?
Well, this was not the way it worked out as Val D'Or seemed to get stronger as the game went on. At 8:15 of the middle frame on another great individual play, Olivier Archambault walked around Montreal defenceman Alex Micallef before beating Bérubé to reduce Montreal's lead to one goal.
Junior goaltender Jean-Francois Bérubé has had a fairly easy go of it so far this season with having to face very few shots against him especially at home. For instance, Friday night versus Chicoutimi he only had to face 18. This was not the case in this game with his team having to lean on him like never before. Val D'Or was exerting plenty of pressure over the last two periods and Bérubé was called on to make big save after big save. He was able to keep the score 2-1 with several big glove saves early in the 3rd period, but you felt that Bérubé could not keep it up forever.
With three and a half minutes left in the game it all completely fell apart for the Junior. In a span of 1:36 Val D'Or scored three goals to snatch the game away from the home side. Defenceman Guillaume Naud and forward Thierry Comtois did most of the damage with Naud scoring two goals and Comtois scoring one and assisting on both of Naud's.
Montreal's turnovers in the neutral zone and their own end finally killed them. Coach Vincent must have been furious as his team lost valuable points against a division rival who were only one point behind his team before the beginning of the game. You could try to blame the loss on the fact that Montreal went into the game shorthanded. Several players are out with injuries (Louis-Marc Aubry, Charles Landry, Janos Hari, and Jean-Christophe Laflamme) and veteran defenceman Charles-Olivier Roussel was suspended for 3 games for being the third man in on a fight against Chicoutimi. As a result, the Junior played the game with 11 forwards and 5 defencemen. But throughout a season there are going to be injuries and a team that wants to go far has to learn how to win games despite them. I guess you have to chalk this one up to a learning experience for the young men and hope they can use this to make them a better team.
The Junior's next game is also at home on Wednesday night versus the PEI Rocket.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Dominich Bédard and Nicolas Dutil
Linesmen: Denis Drolet and David Taveroff
-Goals: 1st Period:
5:50 – Montreal – (pp) Nicholas Chouinard assisted by Louis Leblanc and Jérémy Gouchie
11:59 – Montreal – Louis Leblanc assisted by Xavier Ouellet and Jonathan Narbonne
8:15 – Val D'Or – Olivier Archambault assisted by Cédric Henley and Alexandre Carrier
16:29 – Val D'Or – Guillaume Naud assisted by Thierry Comtois
17:21 – Val D'Or – Guillaume Naud assisted by Thierry Comtois
18:05 – Val D'Or – Thierry Comtois assisted by Alexandre Carrier and Matthieu Thériault
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 36
Val D'Or: 27
-3 Stars: 1) Guillaume Naud – Val D'Or
2) Jacob Gervais-Chouinard – Val D'Or
3) Jean-Francois Bérubé – Montreal
-Final Score : Montreal: 2
Val D'Or : 4