It’s the best time of the year in junior hockey in Quebec as the playoffs have begun in the QMJHL. The first and only playoff game in the league happened last night at the Verdun Auditorium.
Montreal ended up in 2nd place overall, so they were meeting the 15th placed team, the Halifax Mooseheads. Inequality seems like name of the game between these two teams. Montreal ended the season with a 46-12-5-5 record while Halifax had a losing record of 20-43-2-3. This best of 7 series, which starts in Montreal, goes 2-3-2 because of the travel distance between Montreal and Halifax. The Junior beat Halifax in every game this season, but none were by landslides. They have to take the Mooseheads seriously.
Halifax, a team owned and coached by former Montreal Canadiens’ centre Bobby Smith, has a lot of young talent including 17-year-old Czech Martin Frk and 16-year-old Montrealer Luca Ciampini as well as drafted players Konrad Abeltshauser (San Jose Sharks) and Sawyer Hannay (Vancouver Canucks).
An injury-filled season is what Montreal had to deal with. They are still dealing with injuries even now as Viktor Hertzberg recently suffered his 3rd concussion of the season and is dealing with post-concussion syndrome. David Rose took his place on the 1st line with Louis Leblanc and Trevor Parkes. Philippe Fontaine is out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury and Jean-Christophe Laflamme is out 2-3 more weeks with a foot laceration. Due to these injuries Alex Lemieux was getting a chance to play as was Samuel Aquin, who had not played since very early in the season.
Halifax was not at full strength either. They were having to deal with a case of food poisoning that deprived them of three forwards (Darcy Ashley, Francis Turbide and Gabriel Desjardins). The loss of the three players did not seem to diminish the spirit of the Mooseheads as they had all died their hair blonde for the playoffs. It looked hideous, but I’m guessing it did plenty for team bonding. And it was the 15th place team who took charge in the early portion of the game on the scoreboard, at least.
Right at the trade deadline the Junior de Montreal made several deals to make their team tougher physically and deeper. One of the players they traded for was large defenceman Jean-Laurence Beauchemin. While he has instilled some size and toughness to the team his play has been up and down. In the first part of period one it was definitely down. He left his man alone in front of the net and Halifax, despite the fact that they were being outshot, was able to score on their 2nd shot on net.
It wasn’t only Beauchemin to blame on the goal as Aquin began the whole thing by giving the puck away in his own end (after that and the goal he stayed glued to the bench until the 3rd period when Montreal had a secure lead), which led to chaos in front of the Montreal net. Then Beauchemin missed the clearing attempt, which led to Jean-Francois Bérubé having no chance on the Matthew Boudreau shot. Halifax had taken a 1-0 lead a mere 5:50 into the game. Would David be able to defeat Goliath?
The goal seemed to be the slingshot (still with the biblical references) in the gut that Montreal needed and the slumbering giant awoke. And in a big way. Over the course of the next 53 minutes Montreal totally dominated. They were leading in a big way in regards to shots, puck possession and faceoff wins. Montreal was starting to set the tempo and showing their skill. They were bombarding Mooseheads’ goaltender Frédéric Piché, obtained in a trade with the Saint John Sea Dogs, with plenty of rubber. He was making big saves for his team, but you could not expect it to go on forever.
Montreal’s skill prevailed and they scored the next five goals of the game. The line of Nicolas Chouinard- Jérémy Gouchie-Philippe Lefebvre was totally dominating and wore down the Mooseheads with their effective cycling of the puck in the Halifax end. Both Chouinard and Gouchie ended the game with three points. Goals by Charles Landry, Chouinard and Lefebvre in the 1st period, Louis Leblanc in the 2nd and Louis-Marc Aubry in the 3rd put Montreal in a commanding 5-1 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.
After the 5th goal, Bobby Smith pulled Piché to put in back up Anthony Terenzio, who is suffering from post-concussion syndrome himself. Terenzio played well and made a couple of good saves in the 18 minutes he played, so Smith will have a decision to make about who to start in the next game.
It had become quite a lopsided game and is usually the case also chippy. Demonstrating their best playoff refereeing Nicolas Dutil and Pascal St-Jacques swallowed their whistles and let the rough play go unpunished. That went relatively well until there was just less than 4 minutes left in the game.
Montreal, the less aggressive team on the night, was assessed 3 minor penalties on the same play. With David Rose (faceoff violation) and Chouinard (two minors for roughing and holding) in the box, Halifax had back-to-back 5-on-3s. The highly skilled Abeltshauser scored two power play goals to make it 5-3 with less than 2 minutes left.
Nothing much happened for the rest of the game other than another scrum that resulted in plenty of penalties (more for Halifax than Montreal). It was a quickly played game at 2 hours and 16 minutes. Despite the mere two goal margin, Montreal dominated this game. The score is deceptive and rather flatters Halifax.
Game two is Friday night (tonight) at 7:05 at the Verdun Auditorium.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Nicolas Dutil and Pascal St-Jacques
Linesmen: Bruno Forest and Sylvain Losier
-Goals: 1st Period:
5:50 – Halifax – Matthew Boudreau assisted by Alex Souligny and Sawyer Hannay
11:42 – Montreal – Charles Landry assisted by Jérémy Gouchie and Raphaël Pouliot
16:49 – Montreal – Nicolas Chouinard assisted by Jérémy Gouchie
19:39 – Montreal – Philippe Lefebvre assisted by Nicolas Chouinard and Jérémy Gouchie
5:02 – Montreal – Louis Leblanc assisted by Trevor Parkes and David Rose
2:24 – Montreal – Louis-Marc Aubry assisted by Francis Meilleur and Jonathan Narbonne
17:08 – Halifax – (pp) Konrad Abeltshauser assisted by Carl Gélinas and Martin Frk
18:17 – Halifax – (pp) Konrad Abeltshauser assisted by Matthew Boudreau and Martin Frk
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 40
-3 Stars: 1) Nicolas Chouinard – Montreal
2) Jérémy Gouchie – Montreal
3) Charles Landry – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal: 5