The Montreal Juniors scored a huge moral victory at the Verdun Auditorium on Friday night. Unfortunately, the Quebec Remparts scored the goals and, like thieves in the night, escaped with a 2-0 win.
Playing without four regulars (Luke Adam, T.J. Brennan, Angelo Esposito and Toni Ritter), the Juniors held one of the Q's elite teams scoreless for 46 minutes. They outshot the Remparts 33-28 and outplayed them in every facet of the game. They deserved a better fate and, were it not for the heroics of Quebec goalie Charles Lavigne, they might have gotten it.
The twenty year old Hawkesbury native made 33 saves en route to his league-leading sixth shutout. Solid with gusts to excellent throughout the game, he was brilliant in the second half of the third period, making at least five game-saving stops as his team protected a 1-0 lead.
The undermanned Juniors took the play to the Remparts all night and at a given point it looked like the teams might need overtime or even a shoot-out to resolve the issue. After Benjamin Breault scored his 25th goal of the season at 6:13 of the third to put the visitors up 1-0, the Juniors redoubled their efforts, only to be thwarted by Lavigne. The game wasn't truly decided until Breault scored his second of the night into an empty net at 19:40.
While the home team might have contented itself with having come close against a team that is 30 points ahead of them in the standings, Nick Layton's reaction after Breault's second goal is evidence that content is the last thing they were feeling. After slamming the gate, he sat at the end of the bench shaking his head in disgust. They wanted this game and by any subjective measure, they deserved it.
They were disciplined, taking a single minor in the second. They played solid team defense. Jake Allen was seeing shots and the players in front of him were jumping on loose pucks and clearing rebounds. They pressured the Remparts and generally controlled the play.
Objectively, one might look at the power play that elicited any number of "oohs" and "ahs" from the sell out crowd of 3 780, but went 0 for 4. Or maybe at the shots that missed the net. Or the shots players fanned on.
In the final analysis, however, it came down to one thing and the thing is Lavigne. He was the ringleader of this band of bandits from la vielle capitale and were it not for his play, it would've been a long bus ride home for the Remparts.
-Adam Alright: An honourary "Golden Ice Bag Award" goes to Montreal centre Luke Adam. Juniors fans will be happy and relieved to learn that he'll be released from hospital this weekend after successful surgery to remove a ruptured spleen. Adam's parents and other family members were in Montreal last weekend when the injury occurred and extended their stay to be with him while he recuperated in hospital. He'll be heading home to Newfoundland this week to continue his convalescence. We wish the Adam clan a safe trip home and wish Luke a full and speedy recovery.
-Ah, what might have been: On the roster sheet distributed to the media prior to last night's game, Jonathan Roy, not Charles Lavigne, was listed as the starting goaltender for the visitors. Roy was the starter in Montreal's 8-2 drubbing of the Remparts on November 21st.
-The Numbers Game: Yes folks, #16 for the Juniors last night was the same Christopher Smith who wore #21 before the holidays.
-And speaking of not being able to tell the players without a program: What with injuries, suspensions and trades, nine Juniors' players who faced the Remparts on "Patrick Roy Night" November 21st were not in the line up for last night's game.
-Tune Talk, Take Two: The last time I attended a game at the Auditorium, I came away whining about the music. Judging by the changes put in place for last night's tilt, I wasn't the only one with issues. And to give credit where credit is due, the club has made some serious upgrades. In addition to adding a little grit to the playlist (Aerosmith, Queen and the Rolling Stones all got air time), there was a liberal sprinkling of organ music. The best part, however, was the addition of a live trumpeter to the mix. He roamed through the stands encouraging fans to get involved. Sections that didn't meet his lofty standards were treated to a chorus of "Rock a Bye Baby". Sure, Britney, Katie and Lady Gaga still made brief appearances but they were a little like trans fats: in the context of a varied and generally healthy diet, a little won't kill a person (or the atmosphere in the barn).
-Signs you need to pick up the pace of your rendition of the national anthem: The fans are signing along, but are a verse ahead and, by the time you're done, the teams need a second pre-game warm-up.
-Note to Marc-Olivier Vallerand of the Remparts: It's just not gentlemanly to poke an opponent in the back of the head not once but twice when said opponent is involved in a little post-whistle scuffle with one of your team-mates. It's especially ungracious when you are nursing a 1-0 lead. The fact that you tripped over your own blue line five minutes after the poking (much to the laugh-out-loud amusement of the crowd) was the hockey gods making that abundantly clear to you.
1) Charles Lavigne, Quebec
2) Jake Allen, Montreal
3) Benjamin Breault, Quebec
-Shots on Goal:
-On Ice Officials:
Referee: Guy Pellerin
Linesmen: Stéfan Capano, Shane Black
6:13 – Quebec – Benjamin Breault assisted by Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Guillaume Monast
19:40 – Quebec – Benjamin Breault unassisted