Sometimes when a team loses their stars they have to resort to hard work and basic hockey. With two of their top scorers out for the season (It was announced that Angelo Esposito's injury is a torn ACL in his right knee and he's gone for the season) and their top scoring defenceman being suspended for 5 games (this game being the third) the team looks a bit thin offensively on paper. Life has served the Junior lemons, so they have resolved to make lemonade.
Opportunities now abound for many different players. Nick Layton has to take on more of the offensive responsibilities. Matt Fillier has to continue being the leader and provide more offense. Defencemen like Alex Wall and Pat O'Keefe have to contribute more points. Secondary players like Jérémy Gouchie, Pier-Antoine Dion and Guillaume Asselin have to play more minutes and make things happen.
The last couple of games this has been a completely different team. They skate all game long and they work hard for 60 minutes. There is no flash and flair to their game it is just basics and nose to the grindstone time. And I, for one, am loving every minute of it.
Montreal was playing the first place Gatineau Olympiques and the game didn't start like they had hoped. Olympiques defenceman Alain Goulet was dictating the pace early on. Goulet is a fast skating, big in stature, puck moving (and property of the Boston Bruins) defenceman and Montreal was having trouble early on controlling his combination of speed and size. This translated into Gatineau scoring an early goal with Chabot tallying one at 0:57.
The game was not even a minute old and the Junior of old would have crumbled. This new team pulled up their socks and tied up the game with a power play goal by Matt Fillier (his 14th of the season) off a nice pass from Nick Layton, who used his speed to the outside to get around the Gatineau defence. Fillier just had to tap home the cross crease pass. The team looked confident and it continued with Fillier returning the favour to Layton by setting him up for the Junior's second goal 2 minutes later. The romp continued with Fillier scoring his second of the game from…you guessed it….Nick Layton. The first period was all Montreal and they looked great.
You knew this kind of domination could not last against a team as strong as Gatineau. The Olympiques knotted up the game at 3-3 with goals from Joshua Domingues and Maxime Mallette. Despite the fact that they had been outscored 2-0 Montreal had still played a strong period with several scoring chances of their own. They just weren't going in like they had in the 1st period.
Even though they had allowed the Olympiques back into the game Montreal did not seem lacking any confidence. They scored a goal early on in the 3rd period courtesy of a long shot by Jérémy Gouchie. This was a goal that Olympiques goaltender Maxime Clermont would like to have back as it was from far out, not blistering and along the ice. However, a goal is a goal is a goal and Montreal found themselves ahead 4-3. Gatineau's best chance to tie the game up again happened soon after when they hit the crossbar on their first rush after the puck was dropped.
Montreal played tight defense the rest of the game with Pat O'Keefe almost icing it when he hit the crossbar on a bullet of a shot from the point with just over 1 minute remaining. The Junior were doing such a great job forechecking that Gatineau could not even find an opportunity to pull their goaltender for the extra attacker.
After a Gatineau timeout they were finally able to get Clermont out of the net with 0:42 left. Montreal plays such a team game now and the perfect example of this was when defenceman O'Keefe bravely blocked a shot with, well…the family jewels. The biggest of sacrifices was made and after O'Keefe got his breath back the scoreboard read Montreal 4 and Gatineau 3. This was a total team victory and against a quality opponent. I'll say it again: I'm liking what I see from Coach Vincent's team.
The Junior now head out on the road for a stretch of games. The road has not been kind to them for the better part of the season. So the true test of their newfound team game will be their play on the road. Here's to hoping they can continue their strong play while not in the friendly confines of the Verdun Auditorium.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Pierre-Luc Bédard and Guy Pellerin
Linesmen: Shane Black and Stéfan Capano
-Goals: 1st Period:
0:59 – Gatineau – Jean-Philip Chabot assisted by Tye McGinn and Steven Delisle
10:12 – Montreal – (pp) Matt Fillier assisted by Nick Layton and Frank Grzeszczak
12:18 – Montreal – Nick Latyon assisted by Matt Fillier and Pier-Antoine Dion
15:12 – Montreal – (pp) Matt Fillier assisted by Nick Layton and Pier-Antoine Dion
2:03 – Gatineau – Nicolas Boyer assisted by Joshua Domingues and Steven Delisle
12:32 – Gatineau – (pp) Maxime Mallette assisted by Alain Goulet and Paul Byron
1:05 – Montreal – Jérémy Gouchie unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 31
-3 Stars: 1) Matt Fillier – Montreal
2) Nick Layton – Montreal
3) Jean-Philip Chabot – Gatineau