This was a game of many firsts. It was the first game of the new year for the Junior de Montreal and the first home game for a trio of recent additions to the team: Jérémy Gouchie, Anthony Courcelles and Darick Ste-Marie. It certainly looked like a new team (in many respects) for a new year.
The Junior was playing the second of a home and away (or more precisely an away and home) series versus the league's strongest team, the Drummondville Voltigeurs. They lost the first game in Drummondville 5-4. Despite the fact they lost, this was an encouraging showing on the part of the Junior as they are missing several key players (Angelo Esposito – at the World Junior Championships, Toni Ritter – playing for Team Germany at the World Junior Championships, Chris Smith – out with a shoulder injury, and Guillaume Asselin – playing for the Quebec Under 18 team).
Couchie was recently obtained from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in a trade for centreman Taylor MacDougall. You would have to believe that Coach Vincent knows this player quite well as he was his coach in Cape Breton. Darick Ste-Marie is a local boy playing in Junior AAA and recommended to the team by none other than Angelo Esposito. Courcelles is a 16-year-old drafted by the Junior this summer. To be playing Drummondville in their first home game was certainly a baptism by fire for these three young men.
From their first step on the ice for the pregame warm up you noticed a difference about the home team. Changing things up a bit the Junior decided to wear their red uniforms at home instead of their usual whites. It was probably a last minute decision as the three new players did not even have their names on the back of their jerseys. After the way they played on this cold evening they might want to continue this new tradition of wearing their reds at home.
From the beginning of the game the Junior stayed with Drummondville step-for-step. Also, newcomer Gouchie showed his speed and skill on several occasions. Despite his diminutive stature (5'10" and 166 lbs.) he did not shy away from the physical stuff, even laying on a few heavy hits of his own. Both he and Ste-Marie seemed to have earned the confidence of the coach quickly as they saw regular shifts plus turns on the penalty kill and power play. These two are going to be good additions to the team. The jury is still out on the young Courcelles, but he did not see much ice time.
In the early going of the game goaltender Allen made some sparkling saves to keep his team in the game. Montreal did have some early opportunities to go ahead as they had several power play opportunities, but their power play unit was not clicking in the beginning. That is until defencemen Pat O'Keefe cashed in late on a power play in the second period. This goal seemed to invigorate the Junior and crush the Voltigeurs. Montreal scored a second goal in the last minute of the period with Fillier scoring his 9th of the season.
The third period saw the Junior, led by the stellar Allen, withstand the Drummondville offensive onslaught. Drummondville has plenty of offensive talent and several dangerous scorers. Throwing 19 shots at the Junior goaltender the Voltigeurs were not able to score. On this night it seemed whether through skill or luck, Allen was bound and determined to record a shut out. The Montreal goaltender made all the difference with several sparkling saves on Drummondville power play early on in the period. This allowed the Junior to continue pressing the Drummondville defence and goaltender, Nathan Dunnett. Christopher Thorne and Luke Adam, with his team leading 17th goal, rounded out the scoring for the Junior.
This was a great victory for the home side and it should give them plenty of confidence going forward. They now know that they can compete with the better teams in the league. The new players instilled plenty of offensive skill and speed into the team. Once they get Esposito, Ritter and Asselin back they should be that much better. The future looks bright!
-On Ice Officials: Referees: Francis Charron and Marc-André Lavoie
Linesmen: Mathieu Chenier and Serge Carpentier
-Goals: 2nd Period:
15:02 – Montreal – (pp) Pat O'Keefe assisted by Jérémy Gouchier and Matt Fillier
18:57 – Montreal – Matt Fillier assisted by Luke Adam and Nick Layton
4:38 – Montreal – Chris Thorne assisted by Pat O'Keefe
10:53 – Montreal – (pp) Luke Adam assisted by T.J. Brennan and Nick Layton
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 30
-3 Stars: 1) Jake Allen – Montreal
2) Pat O'Keefe – Montreal
3) Jérémy Gouchie – Montreal