No one could say that the Junior de Montreal have had it easy to begin their 2009-10 season. Between playing their first five games on the road and then playing four of the top five teams (Quebec, Gatineau, Moncton, and Drummondville) back-to-back. While they are holding their own with a 2-1 (shootout) loss versus Quebec and a 1-0 loss versus Gatineau, they are still not winning. The young team was mired in a four game losing streak and had to face the Moncton Wildcats.
Moncton has a strong team as their 9-4-1-1 record over 15 games indicates. They are in 6th place overall (20 points) and Montreal would have to be careful not to get too many penalties as Moncton has an excellent 26.5% success rate with the man advantage. The Wildcats also have a winning record on the road at 4-2-1-1
Due to their recent slide the Junior have fallen to 12th place overall and are 7 points behind the first place team (Gatineau) in their division. The only lineup change in this game for the Junior would be that newly acquired defenseman David Stich, who would be making his season and home game debut with his new team. His debut was coming none too soon as defenceman Xavier Ouellet has been out the last two games with an injury. Stich was to be paired with Alex Wall and that means that the two most experienced Junior defencemen would be playing together.
In support of Breast Cancer Month the Junior were sporting pink uniforms (well, the uniforms were white, but the numbers, logo and names were in pink) that would be sold off after the game for $150 each to raise funds. Cool idea, but the light pink colour made the numbers and names a little trickier to read.
The game started off as well as you could have hoped for if you are a Junior fan. Guillaume Asselin scored at the 1:00 mark with the team's first shot on net. That had to raise the team's confidence especially against one of the stronger teams in the league. Asselin found himself on a new line, but it seemed to be one that worked and he just keeps on racking up the points no matter who he is playing with.
Coach Vincent is famous for tinkering with his lines and this game was no exception as he moved Asselin onto Louis-Marc Aubry and Nicolas Chouinard's line. This meant Eliezer Sherbatov was moved to a line with Matthew Brenton and Loik Poudrier. Now, not to belittle (good pun, no?) these three young men, but I think that if they stay together for any length of time they can be called Montreal's Timbits Line as the tallest guy is 5'8". Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta eat your hearts out!
The good vibe created by the early goal was erased two shots later when Moncton scored and then on the very next shot Moncton scored again off a 2-on-1 that Scott Brannon finished off nicely. Just like that 4:18 in the Junior found themselves behind 2-1.
Have no fear as it was the Timbits Line to the rescue. Proving that going to the net is fruitful for even little guys, Sherbatov went straight to the front of the net and was able to backhand in the rebound off a shot by Poudrier. It was an important goal as it knotted the score and was a rare power play goal. The game was tied 2-2 going into the 1st intermission.
At this point anyone involved with the Junior would have been happy with the way the game was going. The Junior scored a couple against a very good goaltender (the Wildcats' Louis Domingue), they scored the game's first goal and early, they were skating with the swift skating Wildcats, and they even managed to score on their so far so bad power play. Plenty of positives and then the 2nd period happened…
As previously stated the Moncton team has a potent power play. It did not feel good when Alex Wall was called for a hooking penalty 56 seconds into the 2nd period and felt even worse when Marek Hrivik scored his 4th of the season on the ensuing power play. To make a nice bookend of it Moncton matched the early goal with a late one at 17:44 by Randy Cameron on a long shot that seemed to change direction on goaltender Jake Allen. He was on his knees when the puck shot up and over his shoulder.
It must have been a complete reversal of feelings for the Junior going into their dressing room after the 2nd period than it had after the 1st.
To their credit they did not hang their heads, but rather outplayed and outshot (16-7) Moncton in the 3rd period. They just could not get the puck past Domingue, who played a great game. Excitementwise there was a bloody fight between Chris Thorne and Moncton's Andrew Roski (his nose was bleeding and he had to go to the dressing room to have it attended to) and two penalty shots by Moncton in the 3rd period. Jake Allen was able to stop both Marek Hrivik and David Savard to keep his team in the game, but they could not come back. It was loss number 5 in a row for the home side.
On the positive side defenceman David Stich showed that he is going to be a good addition to the team. He is a smart and strong player who possesses a good shot which should help the team out greatly on the power play. What the team does desperately need is one more dynamic forward. One who can put the puck in the net or create offensive chances for his linemates. They cannot go through the season with Sherbatov being the only creative forward.
Things do not get any easier for the Junior de Montreal as they face the number one junior team in the nation next: the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The game happens at the Verdun Auditorium this Friday evening.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Nicolas Dutil and Pascal St-Jacques Linesmen: Benoit Vigeant-Sansoucy and Maxime Chaput
-Goals: 1st Period
1:00 – Montreal – Guillaume Asselin assisted by Nicolas Chouinard and Louis-Marc Aubry
3:42 – Moncton – Devon MacAusland assisted by Simon Jodoin and Louis Domingue
4:18 – Moncton – Scott Brannon assisted by Randy Cameron and Kirill Kabanov
12:58 – Montreal – (pp) Eliezer Sherbatov assisted by Loik Poudrier
2:41 – Moncton – (pp) Marek Hrivek assisted by Matthew Bissonnette and Mark Barberio
17:44 – Moncton – Randy Cameron assisted by David Savard and Simon Jodoin
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 41
-3 Stars: 1) Randy Cameron – Moncton
2) Simon Jodoin – Moncton
3) Guillaume Asselin – Montreal