Friday night was the Junior's first of the thirty-three home games that they will play this 2009-10 regular season. They started their season with four straight games on the road. The Junior did fine on the road with a 2-2 record. That leaves them in third place in the Telus Western Division with 4 points and in 12th place overall out of 18 teams. The Junior's opposition in their home opener was the Lewiston MAINEiacs. The MAINEiacs are in second place in their division with a 3-1 record and 6 points.
This year's version of the Junior de Montreal is quite a changed one from last season with plenty of new players on the roster. Coach Pascal Vincent describes his team as being "competitive, fast, but young". He said, he has a team that has "four balanced lines, is fast and are responsible defensively". With five rookies on defence he says, they are "young, talented and very mobile". He expects that they will get better as the year goes on. Bottom line is that Vincent wants his team "to establish ourselves as a team that isn't fun to play against, plays well without the puck and doesn't give up many goals".
To kick their season off in style the team pulled out a lot of the stops with a tailgate party in the parking lot before the game, a new large video screen affixed to the south wall, former World Champion boxer Otis Grant on hand for the pregame face-off, a tam tam group playing in between periods, Peanut Guy was back handing out plenty of free goodies, t-shirt giveaways, and unveiled their new mascot (a raccoon). The large crowd of 3,241 with their thunder sticks made plenty of noise throughout and saw a lot to be hopeful about.
Some information about the team so far this season: Goaltender Jake Allen (sporting a new mask), fresh off a stint at the St. Louis Blues' training camp, would be starting his first game of the season. Winger Trevor Parkes is the team's leading scorer with 5 goals (6 points) with 3 of the goals coming on the power play. The Junior power play is working at an elevated 24.0%, but their shorthanded percentage (66.7%) leaves something to be desired. New player Nicolas Chouinard has been named team captain with Phillippe Fontaine as the assistant captain. Finally, ex-NHL defenceman Joel Bouchard continues his role as assistant coach, but this season he will be behind the bench during games.
For this game, veteran Matthew Brenton, due to a death in the family, was not dressed, but he will be back for Sunday's game. The Lewiston line-up was missing ex-Junior player Samuel Grenache.
The game started with some trouble almost right off the bat for the home side at the 1:18 mark with veteran forward Pier-Antoine Dion getting a 5 minute major penalty and a game misconduct for slew-footing. The Junior was behind the 8 ball having to kill off a 5-minute power play and with their poor penalty killing percentage so far this season that seemed to be a tall order. Surprisingly the team killed the penalty very effectively and even managed a few scoring chances of their own. Diminutive winger Eliezer Sherbatov was stopped by MAINEiac goaltender Adrien Lemay on a breakaway at the very end of the penalty kill.
Right away you can tell a few things about the Junior de Montreal. This season's version of the team is a faster skating team. If they use it wisely their team speed will be more than many team's can handle. Rookie Xavier Ouellet is a slick moving, mobile defencemen who is just going to get better. Centreman Philippe Fontaine is not afraid to lay on the body and his physical play causes some turnovers. Team captain Nicolas Chouinard is an energetic player who never seems to stop working. Diminutive Belarusian Evgeny Solomonov takes licking and keeps on ticking. Hopefully all the hits will not wear him down as the season goes on.
The game became a little chippy at times and that led to plenty of power plays. Montreal had 8 and Lewiston had 5. Montreal came into the game with a high power play percentage, but in this game it did not function as well, Despite some 5-on-3 opportunities the team only went 1 for 8 on the power play. They were kept on the outside for most of their power plays and a lot of the credit has to go to Lewiston. Lewiston is a stronger team than they were last season and made things difficult for the Junior all night long.
Late in the 1st period Philippe Fontaine got a cross checking penalty and Lewiston cashed in early in the 2nd with a goal by Pierre-Olivier Morin. The visitors took a 1-0 lead despite the fact that Montreal was outshooting them 17-9 at this point. Unfortunately for Lewiston, they followed up the goal with two penalties (one being a 4 minute high sticking penalty by Sebastien Trudeau on Genest that resulted in him going to the dressing room for some stitches) and the Junior finally broke the ice with a goal of their own. Guillaume Asselin scored on the ensuing power play on a one-timer off a great cross ice pass from Alex Wall.
The penalties kept coming and with David Foucher in the box the Junior once again did well on the penalty kill. So well that at the end of it they had a 3-on-1 opportunity. It lead to another Junior goal and the home team was up 2-1 late in the 2nd period.
The 3rd period started off slowly for the Junior with them pulling back and allowing Lewiston some great scoring chances. Thankfully Allen was up to the challenge and he made some great saves early in the period to preserve the one goal lead.
Lewiston goaltender Lemay let his team down by fumbling with the puck behind the net in the 4th minute of the 3rd and allowing Chris Thorne to pass it out to a wide open Solomonov, who made no mistake and rifled the puck into the open net. They followed that up with another goal off a pretty 3-way passing play between Louis-Marc Aubry, Chris Thorne and Guillaume Asselin with Aubry notching the goal.
Not a team that gives up Lewiston came right back and scored a goal less than 30 seconds later to make it a 2-goal game once again. Nothing seemed sure yet. The result became clearer when Lewiston captain Billy Lacasse got a silly penalty with just less than 2 minutes remaining in the game. It seemed like the Junior 4-2 lead was a safe one. We all thought that too soon as with just under one minute remaining in the game Junior defenceman Foucher gave the puck away leading to a breakaway for Alexander Beaton. Beaton made no mistake and his goal made it tight collar time for the Junior fans.
The Junior collected themselves and ran out the clock preserving a 4-3 win for the home side. Despite some slow patches in the game you can see the potential in this young team. While the game was closer than it should have been they still pulled out the win. Their next home game is this Sunday afternoon against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Buy a ticket and check out this young team that could surprise many this season.
-On-Ice Officials: Referee: Pascal St. Jacques
Linesmen: Luc Voyer and Dominic Tessier
-Goals: 2nd Period:
1:18 – Lewiston – (pp) Pier-Olivier Morin assisted by Eric Gélinas and Zachary Shannon
3:23 – Montreal – (pp) Guillaume Asselin assisted by Louis-Marc Aubry and Alex Wall
17:18 – Montreal – Toni Ritter assisted by Louis-Marc Aubry
4:32 – Montreal – Evgeny Solomonov assisted by Chris Thorne
14:25 – Montreal – Louis-Marc Aubry assisted by Guillaume Asselin and Chris Thorne
14:53 – Lewiston – Etienne Brodeur assisted by Alexis Piette
19:02 – Lewiston – Alexander Beaton unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 42
-3 Stars: 1) Louis-Marc Aubrey – Montreal
2) Etienne Brodeur – Lewiston
3) Chris Thorne – Montreal