I’m going to lead off with it because you don’t often get to say this with this season’s Junior de Montreal. The team was looking to redeem itself after a bad loss on Friday night against Rimouski. At first glance it doesn’t look that bad as they only lost 3-2 and even the strongest teams cannot be expected to go through a season without losing. It wasn’t the loss in of itself that was bad it was the way they lost.
Despite the fact that the Junior de Montreal as an organization is having its best season (by far) since the move from Newfoundland, there has been one glaring weakness in my eyes. Lack of killer instinct. Good teams that are confident in their abilities never take their foot off the throat of their opposition when they are down. They finish the job. This is not an attribute that the Junior seems to possess so far. Despite the fact that they are 2nd overall in the QMJHL and have been in the top 10 in the entire nation for most of the year has not seemed to translate into a team that is confident in itself. And I am saying this because several occasions this season the team has taken an early lead in a game (2-0 Friday night against Rimouski) and ended up losing the game. Is it that dreaded 2 goal lead in hockey? Or is it just that they take their foot off the gas once they get the lead and end up allowing teams back into the game? A case of gripping their sticks too tightly? It is something that Coach Pascal Vincent and his staff are going to have to work on between now and the end of the season.
It was almost the same thing on Sunday evening with the Junior taking what everyone at the game believed to be a couple of comfortable leads only to fritter them away with sloppy play. Thankfully on this evening the lapse did not lead to a loss, but it was a game that was closer than it should have been.
The game had been moved from its usual 3:05 p.m. start time to 7:05 p.m. to accommodate RDS which was carrying the game. This was a good thing as it gave the opportunity to hockey fans that might not have seen the team play yet watch the Junior. While it was a game that featured a lot of goals it did not give the casual fan the best sampling of what this team is capable of.
Moncton started off the game quite strong. They were often first to the puck causing plenty of turnovers by the Junior. One such turnover came from the usually very reliable Xavier Ouellet. He coughed up the puck deep in his own end and as luck would have it one of the stronger players on Moncton ended up with it on his stick. When Allain Saulnier, twin brother to Moncton’s Alex Saulnier, gets an open chance on net he doesn’t often miss. When he found himself with the puck on his stick and a clear path to the Junior net Saulnier took advantage and launched a low slapshot past a stunned Jean-Francois Bérubé. The game was barely 3 minutes old and the visitors had the lead.
This domination held up until Moncton started getting penalties. Back-to-back penalties in the middle of the 1st period to Simon Jodoin and Allain Saulnier gave the Junior a much needed 5-on-3 man advantage. Louis Leblanc scored with helpers going to Viktor Hertzberg and David Rose.
The middle frame was a busy one with a total of five goals being scored and a bunch of penalties. Moncton, not having learned its lesson the first time, got another pair of penalties late in the 1st. Starting off the 2nd period two men up the Junior scored two more power play goals (Leblanc and Trevor Parkes) within 0:22 seconds of each other to take a 3-1 lead. There was that dreaded two goal lead again.
The two early, quick goals usually would mean the end for the young (17) Moncton starting goaltender, Brandon Thibeau, but his coach Danny Flynn stuck by the young man. That seemed to be a wise decision when Moncton stormed back with two of their own. Before the end of the 2nd, Montreal regained their lead on a penalty shot goal by Hertzberg. Hertzberg fooled Thibeau by shooting early on the blocker side instead of going for the deke.
Maybe the team should think seriously about not going up two goals because after Leblanc scored (his first hattrick in the QMJHL) at 6:27 of the 3rd period his third goal of the game to reestablish a two goal lead for Montreal they once again allowed Moncton back into it. Brandon Gormley (his second of the game on the power play), property of the Phoenix Coyotes, on a howitzer from the point and Marek Hrivik once again brought Moncton even. Regulation time ended with the score knotted 5-5.
Overtime did not solve anything, so it was off to shoot out. It took five rounds for Jérémy Gouchie to finally to put Montreal ahead for good. A win that was more difficult than it should have been and a disturbing trend of letting leads get away from them is something that the coaches are going to have to work on.
The Junior are off on a mini road trip to Rouyn-Noranda (March 5) and Val D’Or (March 6), so maybe that time away from home will allow them to work out the cogs in the machine.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Nicolas Dutil and Dominic Tessier
Linesmen: David Taveroff and Benoit Vigeant-Sansoucy
-Goals: 1st Period:
3:08 – Moncton – Allain Saulnier assisted by Alex Saulnier
14:09 – Montreal – (pp) Louis Leblanc assisted by Viktor Hertzberg and David Rose
0:29 – Montreal – (pp) Trevor Parkes assisted by Viktor Hertzberg and Louis Leblanc
0:51 – Montreal – (pp) Louis Leblanc assisted by Francis Meilleur and David Rose
6:50 – Moncton – (pp) Brandon Gormley assisted by Alex Saulnier and Daniel Milan
12:27 – Moncton – Marek Hrivik assisted by Allain Saulnier and Alex Saulnier
15:17 – Montreal – (ps) Viktor Hertzberg
6:27 – Montreal – (pp) Louis Leblanc assisted by Charles-Olivier Roussel and David Rose
9:21 – Moncton – (pp) Brandon Gormley assisted by Allain Saulnier and Alex Saulnier
13:28 – Moncton – Marek Hrivik assisted by Simon Jodoin
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 38
-3 Stars: 1) Louis Leblanc – Montreal
2) Viktor Hertzberg – Montreal
3) Brandon Gormley – Moncton
-Final Score: Montreal: 6