This was the second game of a home and away series between the hottest team in the league Shawinigan Cataractes and the Junior de Montreal. Montreal should be hungry for a win coming into this one as they lost the first game in Shawinigan 5-2. This would also be the last game for a while (if they make the team) for standouts goalie Jake Allen and forward Angelo Esposito as they are off to the Junior Team Canada tryouts. Though this is a great opportunity for the two young players, it is tough news for a Montreal team struggling to score goals to potentially lose their top scorer and number one goaltender for a couple of weeks.
The lack of offensive punch is really beginning to hamper the Montreal team. Their 88 goals for is the lowest in the entire league. Obviously they have to do better than averaging under 3 goals per game if they want to go far in the playoffs. Their goaltending and defense are doing fine they just have to score more goals.
Due to the snow/ice storm of the previous day the stands were a little emptier than usual, but those who were there saw a top notch game. For a game that started off slowly it really picked up in the second and third periods. Though Shawinigan and their little point machine, Cédric Lalonde-McNicoll, scored a goal in the late stages of the first period, it was the Montreal team that was imposing the tempo.
German Toni Ritter (who will also be missing because he made the German Junior team) was once again back in the line up and on the first line. Every time he, Esposito and Rubin were on the ice they generated scoring chances. These three players really compliment each other well with Esposito being the passer, Ritter the shooter and Rubin the worker. It seems to me as if coach Vincent has found a winning combination with these three.
On the other end of the scale is rookie Guillaume Asselin. Starting off the season strong Asselin's game and point production has tailed off of late. He now finds himself on the fourth line with Chris Thorne and Louis-Marc Aubry. Despite this demotion Asselin brought his lunch pail to the game and turned in a strong outing. He used his speed and vision to create several scoring chances for his linemates. A good sign as they'll need this guy's offense for however long Esposito is away.
Their strong play begun in the first period continued in the second and it paid off as Benjamin Rubin scored his fourth goal of the season right at the tail end of a power play. Right after the goal Montreal withstood some serious pressure from Shawinigan with Jake Allen making a sparkling glove save off of a Matthew Pistilli shot from the slot. Answering the pressure with a goal of their own (Esposito's 15th off a great shot), Montreal took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
Shawinigan is a team with tons of offensive talent and Montreal had seemed to figure out the way to stifle that was to dump the puck in deep into the Shawinigan end and forecheck hard. They were able to cycle the puck down low on many occasions pinning Shawinigan in their own end for prolonged stretches.
This was a night were Montreal was playing up to their potential and showing what they could do. Even on a penalty kill in the third period Montreal had the best scoring chance with centre Taylor MacDougall finding himself on a break away only to have his backhand dribble wide.
Montreal continued to pressure the Shawinigan defense and Chris Thorne potted the goal that sealed the victory at 11:40 of the third period off a pretty feed from Dmitri Kostromitin. Kostromitin had one of his stronger games in a while and he, Alex Wall and Pat O'Keefe were having plenty of success carrying the puck to make plays.
Hopefully this win against the highest ranked team in the league will give the Junior the confidence they have been lacking lately. We'll see if they can continue their good play against their next opponents, the Val D'Or Foreurs, on Friday evening.
-On Ice Officials: Referees: Dominick Bédard and Francis Charron
Linesmen: Serge Carpentier and Stéfan Capano
-Goals: 1st Period:
17:28 – Shawinigan – Cédric Lalonde-McNicoll assisted by Nicolas Peterson and Matthew Pistilli
4:50 – Montreal – Benjamin Rubin assisted by Angelo Esposito and T.J. Brennan
11:07 – Montreal – Angelo Esposito assisted by Benjamin Rubin and T.J. Brennan
11:40 – Chris Thorne assisted by Dmitri Kostromitin
19:40 – Alex Wall assisted by Angelo Esposito
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 30
-3 Stars: 1) Jake Allen – Montreal
2) Angelo Esposito – Montreal
3) Benjamin Rubin – Montreal