On this their last home game of the season (they still have two games this coming weekend on the road) the Junior de Montreal still had some things to settle. Would this be their first 100 point or more season (they sit at 98 points with three games remaining), would they win and clinch the Telus West Division and could they maintain their hold on the 2nd place overall in the QMJHL? Questions, questions and all the team and fans want are answers.
Battling with Quebec and Drummondville for the preferable 2nd place overall, the Junior control their own future for if they win out then they are guaranteed to be in 2nd and play the Halifax Mooseheads in the 1st round of the playoffs. If they bungle it and end up in 3rd then they would play the 13 point better Val D’Or Foreurs. This would not be good as they have had trouble with Val D’Or this season. So despite the fact that their place in the playoffs is guaranteed there are still things to strive for.
Philippe Lefebvre was not in the line-up for Montreal, so Michael Clarke found himself on the 2nd line with Jérémy Gouchie and Nicolas Chouinard. Other than that change the line-up has remained intact for Coach Pascal Vincent over the past couple of games, which is a rarity with all the injuries the team has suffered this season.
Maybe all the pressure was finally getting to Montreal because they came out kinda flat in this game. Rimouski, who started the first 30 seconds of the game by passing the puck back and forth in their own end much to the chagrin of the crowd (who soundly booed them), came to play. They dominated the game early. Hemming the Junior in their end for long periods, the Océanic were often first to the puck and outshot the Junior 7-2 in the early goings.
All this pressure led to Montreal conceding the first goal. At 5:26 Jarrad Struthers scored his 24th of the campaign. It could have been worse as soon after the goal, with Rimouski still exerting plenty of pressure, Jean-Francois Bérubé made a sparkling left pad save off Michael Beaudry, who just wound up and drilled it from the slot. At this point every single line on Coach Vincent’s team was being dominated, so it really didn’t matter who he threw over the boards.
Good lines can create something out of nothing and bring their team back into a game in which they are being dominated. That is exactly what the Leblanc-Parkes-Hertzberg trio did. After Leblanc very routinely played the puck behind the net to Hertzberg he made a pinpoint pass to Parkes in front of the net. Trevor Parkes has turned into quite a scorer for this team. With a Rimouski player on his back he was able to collect the pass and roof a shot to the top right corner of the net quicker than the blink of an eye. Out of nothing something big had happened. Parkes had notched his team leading 32nd goal of the season midway through the 1st period and leveled the score 1-1. That kind of play is exactly what you need from your number one line.
The big line for the well-rounded Junior struck for two more goals to put the team up 3-1 in the 2nd period. Both were scored by Viktor Hertzberg, his 23rd and 24th of the season. The goals bookended a 1 minute 5-on-3 advantage for the Junior that saw them exert very little pressure on the Océanic. The power play for the Junior looked disorganized and hesitant.
While the Junior’s power play was struggling the Océanic managed to make the game tight once again by scoring one with Dylan Anderson in the box for tripping. We’d just past the midway mark of the 2nd period and it was a one goal game. This was not to be expected from a game with a 2nd overall team playing the 13th placed team. Good on Rimouski! They were outshooting and outchancing the home team.
The game remained tight until 14:56 of the 3rd when Louis-Marc Aubry scored to give his team some breathing room. It really was an all David Rose goal as he made a beautiful move on the Rimouski defenceman then backhanded a pass to Aubry, who was alone and just had to redirect it beyond the Océanic’s Morgan Clark. This goal really took the air out of the tires of Rimouski as they never really pressed again. Even goaltender Clark did not seem to want to come out of the net for the extra attacker when Clément Jodoin called him back to the bench with 30 seconds remaining.
Rimouski must have been disappointed, but they should not be discouraged as they played a superiorly skilled team quite tightly. Without the steady to spectacular goaltending of Bérubé they might have won the game. The game had a good tempo to it with long spans between whistles and plenty of tough play, including a spirited tilt between Montreal’s Raphaël Pouliot and Rimouski’s Alexandre Mallet. You could smell spring and the playoffs in the air on this evening.
-On-Ice Officials: Referee: Marc Muylaert
Linesmen: Sylvain Losier and Stéfan Capano
-Goals: 1st Period:
5:26: Rimouski – Jarrad Struthers assisted by Jérome Gauthier-Leduc and Étienne Boutet
10:25: Montreal – Trevor Parkes assisted by Viktor Hertzberg and Louis Leblanc
1:19: Montreal – Viktor Hertzberg assisted by Jonathan Narbonne
10:51: Montreal – Viktor Hertzberg assisted by Trevor Parkes
12:52: Rimouski – (pp) Alex Émond assisted by Gleason Fournier and Félix Lefrancois
14:56: Montreal – Louis-Marc Aubry assisted by David Rose and Dylan Anderson
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 21
-3 Stars: 1) Viktor Hertzberg – Montreal
2) Trevor Parkes – Montreal
3) Alex Émond – Rimouski
-Final Score: Montreal: 4