<b>Gatineau 5 - Montreal 4</b>
<b>[Sunday, 09/07/08] -</b> The Montreal Juniors wrapped up their pre-season series of matchups versus the Gatineau Olympiques this afternoon with a 4-4 tie. The Olympiques eventually went on to win in a shootout(2-0). This afternoon’s game, in front of 2,224 spectators, marked the last of a 4 game series, in which both squads tuned up for their respective season openers, the game also marked the final chance for any rookies looking to make the team before the final cut.
The first period started quickly when Montreal forward Taylor MacDougal and Gatineau defenseman Steven Delisle dropped the gloves only 2 seconds after the opening face-off. Delisle’s Olympiques teammates took some energy from the early fight and made it count, scoring 2 quick goals in the span of 50 seconds on Juniors number 1 netminder Jake Allen. Ben Rubin responded only 3 minutes later, bringing the Juniors within 1, scoring at the 7:07 mark of the 1st period.
Allen, drafted by the St.Louis Blues in 2008, rebounded quickly and did not allow another goal, stopping 7 of the 9 shots he faced, until he was relieved by backup netminder J.F. Bérubé at the 10:19 mark of the 2nd period.
In defense of Jake Allen, it is tough to stay focused and alert when most of the action is taking place at the other end of the ice.
Although Gatineau scored 2 quick goals against Montreal, Allen’s Junior teammates were consistent in pressuring the Olympiques defense and retained possession most of the game, out-shooting Gatineau 12-8, 16-8 and 13-7 for a total of 41-23 in favor of the Juniors. Although the Juniors were getting most of the opportunities in the game, the Olympiques were making the most of their chances.
Leading 2-1 after the first, Gatineau’s early lead quickly slipped away as Alex Lamontagne and Gerrit Fauser of the Olympiques were sent of for minors, giving the Juniors a 5 on 3 opportunity. Making the most of the extra ice available, the Juniors scored 2 quick goals. Pier-Antoine Dion and Maxime Plante both scored power play goals, giving the Juniors their first lead of the game.
Gatineau would continue to let the Juniors dominate the play, allowing Montreal two more 5 on 3 man advantages, unfortunately the Juniors would not be able to capitalize and after the final 5 on 3 opportunity elapsed, Gatineau forward, Olivier Croteau received a pass in the slot from Troy Barss and somehow managed to sneak a weak wrister past J.F. Bérubé, evening the score 3-3 at the end of the 2nd period.
The 3rd period would be all Montreal again as the Juniors fired another 13 shots on Olympiques goalie Marc-Antoine Gélinas. It was not until the 13 minute mark of the 3rd period that the Juniors hard work in Gatineau’s zone would pay off as Chris Thorne would score on a shot that seemed to crawl up and over Gélinas’ shoulder. Again Montreal had the lead and, again, the Juniors found a way to let Gatineau stay in the game. With only 2:47 remaining, the refs called Montreal defenseman Alex Wall for a (questionable) roughing call, putting the Montreal down a man in the final 2 minutes of the game. The end result of the questionable penalty call was an equalizing goal by Gerrit Fauser of the Olympiques.
The final score after 3 periods of play was 4-4, yet the game’s numbers show that Montreal had a great number of opportunites to add to their offensive totals.
The real question will be the defense as the Juniors blue line has played some competent and level defense, yet the forwards have yet to establish their defensive game. It will be important for Montreal to get their system’s settled in time for the regular season, but with a balanced lineup full of exceptional young talent and proven leaders, such as team captain and L.A. Kings draft pick Matt Fillier, the Juniors are ready to make a serious impression in the first season in Montreal.
<b>Notes and Numbers From Pre-Season</b>
The Juniors, who are looking to improve upon last season’s early round playoff exit as the Saint John’s Fog Devils, posted a 1-1-2 record in the 4 pre-season matches versus last season’s league champs, Gatineau.
Winning one on the road and losing once at home, the Juniors lost both other games in the shootout. It was not for a lack of offense or a shortage of scoring opportunities. Montreal tallied 18 goals in the 4 games and had a total of 131 shots on Gatineau goaltenders Maxime Clermont, Marc-Antoine Gélinas and Philippe Magnan. The Juniors power play went 6 for 30 (20%) while the penalty kill went 20 for 25 (80%). Decent numbers for a team that is still putting together its final roster for opening night.
Juniors goaltenders combined to allow 18 goals in 4 games, yet faced only 97 shots, a save percentage of 81.5%. That will change once Jake Allen gets back from training camp with the St.Louis Blues.
Other NHL draft, Angelo Esposito, T.J. Brennan, Matt Fillier, and Adam Luke
will also be attending their respective NHL training camps, but are expected back before the beginning of October.
<b>Juniors Scheduling Notes</b>
The Juniors will officially start their first season in the Q on September 12th in Quebec City vs. the Remparts and will also face Shawinigan on the 14th before returning home for their inaugural home game against Patrick Roy and his Quebec Remparts, September 20th at the Verdun Auditorium.