It's been a busy couple of days for the Junior de Montreal and most of that busy was happening off the ice, but I'll get to that in a moment…
Montreal is coming off a 2 game road trip (Baie Comeau and Chicoutimi) were they went .500 (1-1) and I'm sure are happy to be back at home after doing all that mileage in a couple of days. There's also nothing like sleeping in your own bed.
Now they had to face, for the first time, ex-teammate Luke Adam and his Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. On paper the two teams seem like they are fairly equal with Montreal sporting a 7-4 record (14 points) and Cape Breton a 5-4-1-1 record (12 points). To make it even more equal both teams came into this contest having lost their last game.
The hectic time off the ice for the Junior de Montreal has to do with their roster. All the following stuff can be filed under the 'breaking news' category. Russian player Evgeny Solomonov was seen as not cutting the mustard and was placed on waivers. Twenty-year-old defenceman David Foucher was also placed on waivers. This leaves veteran winger Matthew Brenton as the only 20-year-old left on the team now that Foucher is gone and Samuel Grenache was traded just before the beginning of the season.
If you think that is it, well, you would be wrong! The team also announced that in an effort to get bigger along the blueline the Junior made a trade with the Saint John Sea Dogs for 6'2", 215 pound Czech player David Stich ( a 20-year-old). As the team is only allowed two European players on the roster to make room for Stitch they announced right after this game that they had traded winger Toni Ritter to the Shawinigan Cataractes. The team is also going to announce that they have acquired the rights to Russian player and Montreal Canadiens property Alexander Avtsin though he will probably only join the team for the 2010-11 season as he is playing in the KHL for the Moscow Dynamo this season. Behind the scenes the management is fine tuning the on-ice product and after the Cape Breton game you would have to think that it is just in time.
Back up netminder Jean François Bérubé got the start in nets as Jake Allen had played both games over the weekend. It was foreshadowing of the night ahead for him and the team as he was called upon to make a toe save in the first 30 seconds of the game. The chance came as a result of a turnover deep in the Junior's end.
That toe save was probably the highlight of the night for the Junior and definitely for Bérubé. It was not a night that he'll file away in his scrapbook. Cape Breton struck first and early with a shorthanded goal coming off a 2-on-1 with Stephen Horyl ripping an accurate wrist shot past Bérubé at 1:55.
Montreal responded 5 minutes later when Cape Breton goalie Olivier Roy (Edmonton Oiler draft choice) let in a weak goal. Nicolas Chouinard (wearing a full visor) scored from along the boards and 50 yards out. A shot that never should have eluded Roy. This would be the closest the game would get as all heck was about to break loose for the Junior. Before the end of the 1st period Cape Breton took (and never relinquished) the lead on a Viktor Hertzberg goal.
For the rest of the game the normally fast skating Junior looked like they were skating in mud. They were not generating much offence and definitely no sustained pressure. There was very little flow to the game and Montreal was being seriously outplayed.
During the 2nd period Cape Breton scored 3 goals of which two were on the powerplay. After the fifth goal, Coach Vincent pulled Bérubé from the net and replaced him with Jake Allen. Though his team was not exactly helping him Bérubé did not play well as he had given up 5 goals on 14 shots. Of those 5 goals 2 or 3 were of the weak variety.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the Junior dressing room in between the 2nd and 3rd periods as I'm sure the paint was being peeled off the walls during Coach Vincent's "pep" talk. I'm sure the idea coming out of the dressing room for the 3rd period being behind 5-1 was to win the period. That did not happen.
It was gut check time for the young team and they were not up to it on this evening. The two teams traded goals during the 3rd period with Eliezer Sherbatov scoring on the powerplay off a wicked slapshot and Myles Micallef replying (another weak goal) for Cape Breton. The game ended in a 6-2 loss for the Junior.
Let's hope this lack of effort and cohesion is just a blip in the radar and that they had not regained their legs after the road trip. I would be inclined to think this way as during the first 12 games of the season they were competitive in each game.
Besides the loss, which was bad enough, more bad news came in the form of forward Chris Thorne heading straight to the dressing room after a fight with Micallef midway through the 2nd period and not returning to the game. Let's hope it is not serious as the team cannot afford to lose his leadership and grittiness for an extended period.
The Junior are going to have to rebound quickly from this bad loss as they play against Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts (7-2-2-1) on Friday night at the Verdun Auditorium.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Mathieu Bergeron and Marc-André Lavoie
Linesmen: Bruno Forest and Maxime Chaput
-Goals: 1st Period:
1:55 – Cape Breton – (sh) Stephen Horyl assisted by Francis Meilleur and Morgan Ellis
6:56 – Montreal – Nicolas Chouinard assisted by Eliezer Sherbatov and Guillaume Bélanger
14:48 – Cape Breton – Viktor Hertzberg assisted by Marc Bourgeois and Mathieu Brodeur
12:10 – Cape Breton – (pp) Nick MacNeil assisted by Luke Adam and Francis Meilleur
14:41 – Cape Breton – (pp) Stephen Horyl assisted by Luke Adam and Francis Meilleur
16:05 – Cape Breton – Viktor Hertzberg assisted by Mathieu Brodeur and Cory MacIntosh
1:02 – Montreal – (pp) Eliezer Sherbatov assisted by Vincent Bourgeois
8:10 – Cape Breton – Myles Micallef assisted by Brad Cuzner
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 23
Cape Breton: 33
-3 Stars: 1) Francis Meilleur – Cape Breton
2) Stephen Hoyle – Cape Breton
3) Eliezer Sherbatov – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal: 2
Cape Breton: 6