It was sad to think that this could possibly be the last game of the season for the Junior de Montreal. In their quarter-final best of seven series against the Drummondville Voltigeurs they were down 3-0. The proverbial back was against the wall. It was do or die time. And all those other clichés. If they did not win on this evening they would be done. And swept to top it off.
The excellent coach of the Voltigeurs, Junior Team Canada assistant Guy Boucher, decided to rest his number one goaltender, Marco Cousineau, and dressed the back up, Antoine Tardif, in his place. Normally this would make a big difference, but with Drummondville you would hardly notice. And this is because they are so good and spend so much time in the other team's end that they could have me in nets without it mattering. Okay, that could be a little bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point.
For Montreal the human steamroller, Samuel Grenache, was back in the lineup as he had sat out his one game suspension for a cross check in game 2 of the series. He would not give the Junior any more offensive help, but he would try to physically intimidate the Voltigeurs in the hopes of getting them off their game.
Like they had in the previous three games of the series the Voltigeurs started off fast. The Junior seemed unprepared for it. Though you think they would have gotten used to it by now. Before all the fans had settled into their seats the Voltigeurs took a 1-0 lead on a power play goal by (who else) Yannick Riendeau. This guy is incredible on the power play. With his speed, good vision and great hands the extra room afforded to him on the power play is usually deadly for the opposition. While he might need to bulk up if he has aspirations for the NHL, as he is fairly easy to knock off the puck once you get a handle on him, he could become quite a power play specialist for the Boston Bruins.
Showing that they are a complete team the Voltigeurs, courtesy of an all-world move by Gabriel Dumont, scored a shorthanded goal less than two minutes later to go up 2-0 and all the Junior fans must have felt like the rout was on. Here we were less than six minutes into the game and the Voltigeurs already had a 2-0 lead in the potential elimination game. The bad feelings got worse when Riendeau notched his second and league leading 14th of the playoffs at the midway point of the first on…you guessed it…a power play.
The Junior got themselves into trouble early in the game due to indiscipline. They know that the Voltigeurs have a power play unit that runs at 46.7% efficiency. You cannot take penalties against them. Nick Layton and Darick Ste-Marie cost their team goals. Though I would have to excuse Ste-Marie as he got his on a dubious goaltender interference call on a play when everyone in the building (except the ref) thought he had scored a goal that knotted the game at 1-1.
Assistant captain, and pretty much invisible man during the series, Pier-Antoine Dion decided to take matters into his own hands (literally) and dropped the gloves against Philippe Bergeron just after the third goal. He must have thought that he would try that in the hopes of changing the momentum.
It seemed to work a bit as the Junior played much better in the second half of the period. They tested Voltigeur goaltender Tardif on several occasions. He showed everyone that he possesses a quick glove hand.
The special teams really let the Junior down in the first period. The Voltigeurs were 2 for 2 on the power play and they had also surrendered a shorthanded goal. The Junior did not look ready for this critical game and I found myself asking "How can that be?" Coach Vincent could not have been happy with his troops during the first period intermission.
As the second period started you had to be thinking that Montreal had to score the next goal to have any chance at a win. Coach Vincent shortened his bench trying to get some momentum going. Feisty forward Samuel Grenache was kept on the bench for the most part after having gone after a Voltigeur in the first period. Vincent musn't have wanted this game to get ugly. Centreman Philippe Fontaine also spent long periods on the bench, whereas the Junior's best and hardest working player on the evening, Darick Ste-Marie was getting plenty of ice time.
The worst thing possible happened with Drummondville scoring their 4th goal (Benoit Levesque). However, just over 30 seconds later the Junior got on the score sheet with a Guillaume Asselin goal courtesy of a great setup by Alex Wall. Instead of hanging their heads the Junior kept competing and putting pressure on the Voltigeurs. Jake Allen did his part by playing solidly when called upon and robbed Riendeau on at least two occasions for his hattrick goal.
Suddenly there is some real hope when Darick Ste-Marie's hard work finally payed off in a goal at the 7:26 mark of the third. It is now 4-2 and we have a game, folks! The Junior keep pressing and come close on several occasions. Unfortunately the Voltigeurs score a backbreaking goal to go up 5-2. Nick Layton scores one more for the Junior at 12:20, but that was all she wrote. The Junior lose the game 5-3 and the series 4 game to 0.
All in all this was a good season for the team and they have nothing to be ashamed of. The way they dealt with the injuries and then played their best hockey afterwards says much about the team. The Voltigeurs are just too good and too deep for the Junior to match up against.
Stay tuned to this site for a wrap-up article for the season and a look forward for the Junior de Montreal.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Dominick Bédard and Nicolas Dutil
Linesmen: Yannick Massé and Bruno Forest
-Goals: 1st Period:
3:39 – Drummondville – (pp) Yannick Riendeau assisted by Dany Massé and Mike Hoffman
5:33 – Drummondville – (sh) Gabriel Dumont assisted by Patrik Prokop
10:28 – Drummondville – (pp) Yannick Riendeau assisted by Dany Massé
7:10 – Drummondville – Benoit Lévesque assisted by Chris DiDomenico and Gabriel Dumont
7:22 – Montreal – Guillaume Asselin assisted by Alex Wall
7:26 – Montreal – Darick Ste-Marie assisted by Pat O'Keefe
9:09 – Drummondville – Marc-Olivier Vachon assisted by Andrew Randazzo and Chris DiDomenico
12:20 – Montreal – Nick Layton assisted by T.J. Brennan and Toni Ritter
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 30
-3 Stars: 1) Matt Fillier – Montreal
2) Nick Layton – Montreal
3) Pat O'Keefe – Montral