If ever a game could be qualified as a "late bloomer", Montreal's 4-3 overtime win against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies was it. It turned out to be an good game with the Juniors storming back from a 2-0 deficit to win it on a pretty power play tally in OT, but boy did it ever take its sweet time getting going.
How sloppy, dull and uninspired were the first two periods? About halfway through the second period, fans would have been forgiven for wondering what they had done to so offend the sports gods that they should be subjected to the teams stumbling and bumbling their way from one broken play to another when they could have been curled up at home on the sofa with either the Giants and Eagles or Pittsburgh and San Diego.
Oh, the teams tried to liven things up. Rouyn's Alexandre Beauregard scored his first goal of the year at 1:30 of the second to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. Huskies' defenceman Jérôme Gauthier-Leduc had players literally diving for cover as he launched high, hard and utterly unpredictable shots from the Rouyn point. The two number 27s, Matt Fillier and Dominik Bohac even had a little tussle that earned them each five for fighting but did little to get the crowd of 2 849 into the game. Montreal's Jérémy Gouchie, who had generated a nice short-handed chance in the first, and Benoit Gervais fought too but, in keeping with how the game was going, there was no decision.
Rouyn's second goal of the second period typified the kind of game it had been to that point. Montreal defender T.J. Brennan bumped into Fillier as Brennan was trying to carry the puck out of the Montreal zone. He was then clobbered by a Rouyn player (with what looked to be an unpenalized elbow), coughed up the puck to Christophe Losier who set up Pier-Luc Giguère. It was 2-0 with less than 2 minutes left in the second period and it didn't look like things were going to get much better.
The Juniors started the third on the power play, but were pinned in their own zone and managed just two very pedestrian shots when they did get into Huskies' territory. The period was stretching out like a dreary replica of the two that had gone before. But then, enter Guillaume Asselin. The Juniors' rookie sparkplug carried a rolling puck into the Rouyn zone and managed to centre it. Pier-Antoine Dion couldn't quite handle it but got off a shot. By then Asselin had made his way to the side of the net. He corralled the rebound with his skate, kicked the puck up to his stick and beat Huskies goalie Mickael Audette at 3:04. When Nick Layton scored at 4:28 to tie things up, it looked like the sow's ear was officially a silk purse.
The play wasn't necessarily any cleaner or more precise from that point on, but the pace picked up and both teams were playing with a little more intensity. Montreal tempted the fates at 9:30 of the third, giving the league's third best power play yet another opportunity. Jérémy Gouchie obviously wasn't intimidated by Rouyn's gaudy power play numbers (25.9% efficiency overall, 27% on the road) because as he had done in the first, he managed to get behind the Huskies. This time, however, he had Angelo Esposito with him. Esposito made no mistake, converting a beautiful feed into the go ahead goal for Montreal.
But if you play with fire, you're bound to get burned. Rouyn tied the game up at 11:13. There was a delayed penalty call and they had the sixth attacker on the ice at the time of the goal. Neither team was able to score again in regulation so it was off to overtime.
With teams playing four aside, Esposito had an opportunity just 15 seconds into the fourth period and while he was unable to convert, he drew a penalty. On the ensuing 4 on 3 he made a great pass to Luke Adam who was standing at the edge of the crease. Adam's goal at 1:35 of over time salvaged what had looked to be unsalvageable.
The Juniors notched their 23rd win of the season, got their two points and now head out on their longest road trip of the season only two points our of sixth place overall in the league, with as many as four games in hand over the teams they're chasing. It should be an interesting few weeks for the hometown team.
-Bon voyage, Les Boys! The team will play its next seven games on the road. They're back at the Verdun Auditorium on Monday, February 2nd, when they host the Halifax Mooseheads in a 7pm start.
-Academics and Athletes: The Juniors honoured their top student-athletes for the months of September, October and November in a pre-game ceremony. Pier-Antoine Dion (September), Louis-Marc Aubry (October) and Vincent Bourgeois (November) received commemorative pins and five piece luggage sets in recognition of their achievements.
-The Golden Ice Bag Award goes to Chris Thorne. He left the ice early in the first with what looked like a "lower body injury". He was back by the end of the period not looking entirely comfortable but blocking shots nevertheless.
-What were they thinking? During the pre-game warm up, members of the Huskies were cheering every time they scored. Wow, with teammates like that…
-Choral Kudos: The Montreal Children's Chorus delivered a lovely rendition of the national anthem before the game. They weren't even rattled when one particularly enthusiastic fan started whooping just before the last "We stand on guard for Thee". Consummate pros already and they're only aged 9 to 16.
-Major Musical Misconduct: My own taste in tunes being somewhat suspect, I'm loathe to criticize others. That being said, I simply cannot see the connection between the music of pop princesses Britney Spears, Katie Perry, Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga and Major Junior hockey. (OK, maybe Playing Perry's "Hot and Cold" was an ironic comment on the play of both teams. But "I Kissed a Girl"? Puh-leeze.) Sure it's a cliché, but I'd rather hear "Welcome to the Jungle" before overtime than "Poker Face".
1) Angelo Esposito, Montreal
2) Luke Adam, Montreal
3) Pier-Luc Giguère, Rouyn-Noranda
Shots on Goal:
On Ice Officials:
Referee: Nicolas Dutil
Linesmen: David Taveroff, Sylvain Losier
1:30 Rouyn-Noranda Alexandre Beauregard assisted by Alex Émond
17:34 Rouyn-Noranda Pier-Luc Giguère assisted by Christophe Losier
3:04 Montreal Guillaume Asselin assisted by T.J. Brennan and Louis-Marc Aubry
4:28 Montreal Nick Layton assisted by Matt Fillier and Luke Adam
8:59 Montreal Angelo Esposito assisted by Jérémy Gouchie
11:13 Rouyn-Noranda Jeff Desjardins assisted by Benoit Gervais and Pier-Luc Giguère
1:35 Montreal Luke Adam assisted by Angelo Esposito