This was a dream weekend for the Junior de Montreal. Not in the regard that they had to play three games in less than three days, but the fact that they won all three of them. Coach Vincent Pascal could not have asked much more from his troops. Plus the wins have the team on an impressive seven game winning streak.
The Junior's run of three games in less than 72 hours (with traveling back and forth from Quebec City stuck in the middle) was off to a great start with two important and confidence boosting victories against Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts. Quebec had just been named the number one junior team in all of Canada this week and the two victories against them should move the Junior right up in the poll. It also went a long way to show the players that they can compete against anyone if they are playing their best.
Now, they did not play their best in the third game of the weekend, but as their opponents were the Baie-Comeau Drakkar they didn't need to. Going into the game, especially after the emotional high of the two wins against Quebec, it had to be at the back of many minds that they were prime for a let down.
Baie-Comeau is not exactly a powerhouse and in actuality they are the complete opposite. The Drakkar are dead last (18th place) in the QMJHL with a mere 6 points in 21 games. They have a woeful 1-16-1-3 record and have not won a game on the road all season.
On the other hand, Montreal is having a great season. Even though they have played fewer games than most teams they are in 8th place overall and in 2nd place in the Telus West Division just 2 points behind Drummondville , but Montreal has 4 games in hand.
Because of the busy weekend Etienne Marcoux was getting a rare start in nets allowing Jean-Francois Bérubé a rest. Denis Kindl, David Rose and Jean-Christophe Laflamme were all not dressed for the game. Rose was scratched after the warm-up with Pascal Vincent deciding to go with an extra defenceman (Matt Provost – who ended up playing mostly on the 4th line) and only 11 forwards.
For the Junior some of the forward lines were a little different with Louis-Marc Aubry back he was centering a line with Dylan Anderson and Philippe Fontaine. Philippe Lefebvre was moved off the number one line and onto one with the red hot Jérémy Gouchie (10 points since the middle of October) and Trevor Parkes. Janos Hari was moved to the top line with Louis Leblanc and Nicolas Chouinard.
The game started off slowly for the Junior with it taking almost 8 minutes and a power play for them to register their first shot on Drakkar goalie Simon Giroux. Turns out that Giroux was not in the nets for long as the Junior struck for two goals in under 6 minutes and he was pulled in favour of back up Jason Missiaen – previously property of the Montreal Canadiens.
Chouinard got things rolling just after the midway point of the 1st after he redirected in a centering pass from Leblanc from right in the blue paint. After video review to check and see if it had not come off Chouinard's skate it was deemed a good goal. Then almost 6 minutes later Dylan Anderson scored his third goal of the season to make the lead 2-0 and spelled the end for Giroux.
All season long 2-0 leads for the Junior have meant trouble. A couple of times they have allowed teams to climb back into games when they have pulled out in front by 2-0. This was to be no different.
Baie-Comeau, to the delight of their many supporters who had made the trip to Montreal, scored early in the second on a shot that Marcoux should have stopped to halve the lead, but the Junior, on a goal by Lefebvre who wristed home a rebound off a Charles-Olivier Roussel point shot, regained their 2 goal lead just over 1 minute later.
It was a good sign that the Junior, who must have been tired, spent large portions of the 2nd period in the Baie-Comeau end of the ice. It was totally lopsided on the shot clock with Montreal so far in the game firing 23 on the Drakkars net while they were only able to muster 10 shots on Marcoux.
The already tired Junior then had to kill a penalty, but as far as penalties go it was a good one. Drakkar defencman Gabriel Verpaelst hit Eliezer Sherbatov heavily from behind at the blue line. Fourth line winger Michael Clarke stood up for his teammate and dropped the gloves with Verpaelst. Unfortunately, Clarke was not only assessed 5 minutes for fighting but an instigator and 10 minute misconduct on the play.
All's well that end's well as the Junior not only killed the penalty, but scored a goal at the end of it at 16:19. Jonathan Narbonne smartly broke up a Drakkar rush and headmanned the puck to Hari, who served the minor for Clarke. He came out of the box and was off on a 2-on-1 with Leblanc. Hari dropped the puck to Leblanc who wired a quick wrist shot past Missiaen, who did not really even have time to react.
A 4-1 lead by the Junior going into the 3rd period must have seemed safe. Especially with the Junior outshooting and outplaying the Drakkars by such a wide margin. Things changed suddenly when Leblanc was assessed a slashing penalty very late in the 2nd.
The Drakkar started off the 3rd period on a power play. You had to think it was now or never for them if they had any hope of getting back in the game. And they did just that.
A mere 44 seconds into the period while on the power play Maxim Lamarche blasted a shot from the left point past a screened Marcoux. Then less than 3 minutes later Lukas Cingel made it a one goal game. With his team giving up two quick goals to start the 3rd period and reducing their lead to one goal, Vincent called a time out to refocus his players.
The talk did not seem to have the desired effect as the Junior continued to run around in their own end once play resumed and Baie-Comeau came close to scoring the tying goal twice. Only a great save by Marcoux with his blocker right off of a face off kept the Junior ahead.
Leblanc put his team in a more precarious position by getting a 4 minute penalty for high sticking soon after. They managed to kill it off and rode that wave right until the end of the game when Trevor Parkes iced the victory with an empty net goal at 19:09.
Not all about this weekend was good as it was divulged during the game Sunday afternoon that Louis Leblanc has an upper body injury that he sustained in the game in Quebec City and as a result he is taking some time off so he won't be participating the Subway Super Series versus Russia on Monday. It is not like the Junior won't have any representation as Xavier Ouellet, Jean-Francois Bérubé, Philippe Lefebvre, Trevor Parkes, and Charles-Olivier Roussel will take part in the series.
The rest of the team is off until Thursday when they will meet the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles at the Verdun Auditorium. A rest well earned, I say.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Stéphane Tremblay and Frédéric Leblanc
Linesmen: Serge Carpentier and Nicolas Savoie
-Goals: 1st Period:
10:09 – Montreal – Nicolas Chouinard assisted by Louis Leblanc and Janos Hari
15:56 – Montreal – Dylan Anderson assisted by Philippe Fontaine and Charles Landry
2:30 – Baie-Comeau – Jean-Philippe Caron assisted by Maxim Lamarche and Jonathan Parisien
3:43 – Montreal – Philippe Lefebvre assisted by Charles Olivier Roussel and Francis Meilleur
16:19 – Montreal – Louis Leblanc assisted by Janos Hari and Jonathan Narbonne
0:44 – Baie-Comeau – (pp) Maxim Lamarche assisted by Mikael Langlois and Frédérick Gamelin
3:16 – Baie-Comeau – Lukas Cingel assisted by Jean-Philippe Caron and Gabriel Verpaelst
19:09 – Montreal – (en) Trevor Parkes assisted by Louis Leblanc
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 33
-3 Stars: 1) Louis Leblanc – Montreal
2) Jean-Philippe Caron – Baie-Comeau
3) Janos Hari – Montreal
-Attendance : 3,024
-Final Score : Montreal : 5
Baie-Comeau : 3