This has been a successful season so far for the Junior de Montreal. They have gone from a team that has eked into the playoffs the last two seasons and then loses in the first or second round to one that is in the top five of the QMJHL and regularly in the top ten in the nation. Though it hasn't been without its trials and tribulations.
The injury bug has bitten this team quite often and hard. I have heard that throughout the entire season (46 games including the one Friday night) the team has only played with its complete roster twice. That is not a picture of health yet due to its depth the team just keeps on winning no matter who is in the line up. Over the course of the season they have continuously had one or two players on the injury list. Right now that number is a little higher.
They say that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. This saying is especially true for the Junior de Montreal. Winger Philippe Lefebvre (concussion) was back in the line up, but the team would not be lucky enough to end the game with the same number of players it started with. Get one back and lose one.
Friday night's game was a contest of teams at the opposite end of the spectrum. Montreal is 3rd overall in the league 5 points ahead of 4th place Drummondville with 2 games in hand. Rouyn-Noranda sits in 18th and last place overall with only 8 wins in 45 games. Sounds like a total mismatch, right? Well, that is not exactly how it played out…
As a reward for their strong play last game Jean-Christophe Laflamme and Michael Clarke were starting the game. Unfortunately Laflamme did not finish the game, but more about that later.
The 1st period was a rather pedestrian, sloppy and to be honest, dull affair. And that was not just because there was no goals scored. It wasn't well-played hockey. The only interesting aspects of the game so far was the strong play of relative newcomer Raphaël Pouliot and the physical play of the Huskies.
The Junior's Raphaël Pouliot had their best chances and found himself being occasionally double shifted throughout the game as a result. With about 2 minutes left in the period Janos Hari, former Junior player, crushed Dylan Anderson with a hit along the boards. Hari is a player that disappeared from the Junior's roster during the trade season. He is a gritty player with some offensive skills, it was to be expected that he would try to show the Junior whatever way he could that they had made a mistake letting him go. He was not the only Huskies' player who was looking to make an impression, but more about that later.
At the beginning of the 2nd period the Huskies took that aggressive play a little too far as they took back-to-back penalties. They did successfully kill off the Jason Kelly hooking penalty, but were not as successful with the Mathieu Brisebois delay of game minor. The Junior exerted incredible pressure on the Huskies and kept control of the puck in their end for the entire power play – until they scored, that is. Philippe Lefebvre finally scored at 4:12 with assists going to Nicolas Chouinard and Louis Leblanc.
The Huskies then exerted some pressure of their own on Montreal forcing goaltender Jean-Francois Bérubé into one of the better saves of the season. It was a great glove save moving from his right to left to rob Hari. Looked to be a sure goal for Hari into the open side of the net, but on this occasion Bérubé was too quick.
Bérubé didn't look as good on the next Huskies' chance just one minute later. Jean-Francois Gernier C. launched a slap shot on the Montreal goalie, but he only saw it at the last minute as he was partially screened by his defenceman Francis Meilleur. The shot struck him in the chest and just fell to the ice around his skates. Not quick enough and looking like he didn't know exactly where the puck was, Bérubé just sorta stood there instead of covering up. Jérémi Janneteau did locate it and poked the puck past Bérubé.
These two sequences sorta sum up the season for Bérubé. He can be marvellous one moment and weak the next. What the team needs is less spectacular and more consistency.
Montreal regained their one goal lead late in the 2nd when Jérémy Gouchie scored his 14th of the season off the rush. After collecting a pass from Trevor Parkes, he used his speed and a good dose of determination to get by the Huskies' defenceman and push the puck up and over a very good Jeffrey Noonan.
The Parkes-Gouchie combination doubled the Junior's lead at 9:48 of the 3rd period when Gouchie scored his second goal of the game. Parkes did most of the heavy lifting and had his own good chance to score first on a wrist shot from the slot. Noonan made the save on Parkes, but could do nothing after one of his defencemen fumbled with the rebound and it ended up on Gouchie's stick who wristed a shot top corner.
After this goal the Huskies seemed resigned to their fate of losing their 34th game of the year and lost their heads a bit. Or at least Robbie Defulviis did. Not long after the Junior's third goal, he ran around an entire shift just looking to crush someone…anyone. It did not seem to matter who he hit as long as they were in a black uniform. The two referees were not savvy enough to see it coming and Defulviis finally got what he wanted when he laid out Laflamme , who went ass over tea kettle landing on his head. Try as he might, Laflamme could not get up under his own power. Pouliot, a big boy who was on the ice at the time, chased down Defulviis looking to engage him in a fight, but was refused.
Once the referees finally did blow the whistle, the trainer ran out to tend to Laflamme. Luckily it seemed like he did not hurt his neck which snapped upon landing, but it did seem like he was a little groggy. When he was finally able to get up he and the trainer went straight to the dressing room. Here's to hoping that Laflamme, who has been playing well the last couple of games, does not join the list of injured.
The cowardly Defulviis (why is it always guys like him hit those least likely to be able to defend themselves and then refuse to accept invitations to fight?) also got a stern talking to from captain Chouinard on his next shift. But the damage was already done.
The Huskies took two penalties close together late in the 3rd period. On the ensuing 5-on-3 Charles-Olivier Roussel scored from the point with a mere 0:24 seconds left in the contest. Player of the game Jérémy Gouchie had one of the assists with Meilleur getting the other.
This was a fairly dull game and not one of the Junior's best of the year. Thankfully as they were playing the weakest team in the league they did not need to bring their "A" game in order to gain the victory. It will be a different story altogether in their next game.
Next up for the Junior is the much more skilled side of the Gatineau Olympiques. The Olympiques are not far behind the Junior in the standings and the two sides have carved out quite a rivalry so far this season. It has all the makings of a good game.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Nicolas Leduc and Frédéric Leblanc
Linesmen: David Taveroff and Benoit Vegeant-Sansoucy
-Goals: 2nd Period:
4:12: Montreal – (pp) Philippe Lefebvre assisted by Nicolas Chouinard and Louis Leblanc
8:11: Rouyn-Noranda – Jérémi Janneteau assisted by Jean-Francois Grenier C and Alexandre Leclerc
18:19: Montreal – Jérémy Gouchie assisted by Trevor Parkes
9:48: Montreal – Jérémy Gouchie unassisted
19:36: Montreal – (pp) Charles-Olivier Roussel assisted by Jérémy Gouchie and Francis Meilleur
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 37
-3 Stars: 1) Jérémy Gouchie – Montreal
2) Jeffrey Noonan – Rouyn-Noranda
3) Trevor Parkes – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal: 4