The Lions de Trois-Rivières completed the fifth week of the ECHL season with a perfect record, winning all three games against their division rival, the Reading Royals. The six points saw them move up from the basement of the divisional standings.
Player movement summary
Kevin Poulin was returned to the Lions from the Laval Rocket as Jake Allen returned to play for the Montreal Canadiens. Poulin stayed in Laval for a few extra days raising questions as to whether it was to send a message to the team’s goaltenders, or simply to ensure that Allen was in fact cleared and ready to play against Washington. Eventually Poulin returned to Trois-Rivières, but not in time for the first game against the Royals, as Anthony-Carmine Pagliarulo acted as backup one final time before being released by the Lions the following day to make room for Poulin on the roster.
Two players were released by the Lions at the start of the week, notably 27-year old forward Jonathan Joannette and 29-year old defenceman Alexandre Perron-Fontaine. Both joined the Lions out of the second division in France, but did not manage to make their spot on the team, and as other players joined the team, they were the lowest two on the depth.
Speaking of arrivals, first of all the American Hockey League Manitoba Moose loaned defenceman Hayden Shaw to the team, and the Laval Rocket bounced defenceman Terrance Amorosa between Laval and Trois-Rivières. Amarosa would only play one of the three games with the Lions.
The most interesting story came from the signing of veteran forward Danick Paquette who only joined the team for the game on Wednesday, but left a real mark on the team. With his unmistakable long flowing hair emerging from under his helmet like a hazel-coloured waterfall, Paquette was an immediate hit with the 2,600 fans at the Colisée. He hit, he disturbed, and he even had a few scoring chances. And for each action on the ice, the crowd buzzed with the hope of bursting into the cheer. The players and the coach admitted after the game that he brought a certain “spark” that the team was missing. An element of old school hockey directly out of Slapshot. Paquette was known to the team for taking part in the Lions pre-camp, but started the season in the LNAH with Les Pétroliers du Nord in Laval. A four-game suspension sidelined Paquette, and the Lions took the opportunity to play him for one planned game, as part of head coach Eric Belanger’s plan to send a message to certain players who were not playing up to their expected standard.
Wednesday night, Lions win 5-1
For the first game of the week, Alexis D’aoust and Julien Nantel found themselves as the first recipients of Bélanger’s quest for consistency. “I hope that they are not happy about it, and I hope to see a response from them,” said Bélanger after the game. Whether or not the team’s gameplay itself was influenced or not by this message is unknown, but what was known was that the Lions played a nearly complete 60-minute game which Bélanger dubbed “the blueprint” for the team.
Justin Ducharme kicked things off with a huge power forward goal, chasing down the puck, cutting in front of the net while wearing a defender on his back, and deking out the goalie.
The winning goal was scored by the quietly efficient Anthony Nellis, converting a rebound from in front of the net. Speaking after the game, Nellis admitted that the team thought that they could get away with talent alone, but it took a few eye openers to realize that they all had to buy into the system, and play the way that was being asked of them.
Meanwhile the top line duo of Olivier Archambault and Peter Abbandonato assisted on each other’s goals, including this two-on-one break that halted the only sustained momentum that they Royals had all game.
Justin Ducharme added an empty net goal to seal it for the Lions.
The following day, the expected news came that the Lions placed Paquette on waivers in order to terminate his contract and return him to the LNAH, however the unexpected happened, and the Reading Royals claimed Paquette off of waivers. Lions general manager Marc-André Bergeron confirmed that the Royals pulled a dirty trick to keep Paquette away from the Lions. With Paquette refusing to join the Royals, the Royals were able to suspend him, and not have to count his cap hit against the salary cap. The suspension will be for 45 days.
Friday night, Lions win 9-1
If the Royals thought claiming Paquette would offer them some sort of psychological advantage, they were quite wrong in their assessment. The Lions came out roaring in the first period, and basically never took their foot off of the gas to hand the Royals their worst defeat in ages.
Anthony Nellis opened the floodgates less than five minutes into the game when he broke into the slot untouched while Charles-David Beaudoin rounded the back of the net. A slick tape-to-tape pass put the puck past the Royals goaltender
Both players would finish the game with two goals and two assists each in a game that was a total massacre.
Cedric Desruisseaux added to the bloodletting in the first period with his first professional goal in a goalmouth scramble. After 20 minutes the Lions would hold a commanding 4-0 lead.
Going into the second period, and the game well in hand, the Lions had to make sure not to let any bad habits or lazy plays creep in. The lack of discipline or the lack of effort are two characteristics hated by the head coach, and the team was theoretically still on warning from the coach, so it was important to continue playing to the fundamentals.
Alexis D’aoust was back in the line-up, and he certainly needed to show Belanger that he took his healthy scratch in the previous game poorly and to come out with renewed determination. He scored his first goal since returning from the AHL Belleville Senators over two weeks ago to put the Lions up 5-0.
After an altercation at the Royals net after the whistle, Dominic Cormier received a rare triple minor penalty, four minutes for spearing, and two more for unsportsmanlike conduct, which put the Lions on the power play for six minutes. Charles-David Beaudoin would score almost immediately to put the Lions up 8-1.
Beaudoin would then bury another powerplay goal, finishing up his evening of work with four points, putting up the Lions 9-1, which is the most goals they have scored in a single game this season.
Saturday afternoon, Lions win 3-2 in overtime
The players were warned by Bélanger not to come into this third game overconfident, and sure enough the Lions received the response from the Royals that they were expecting. It was the most closely fought contest of the week. For a third straight game, the Lions scored first when Julien Nantel scored his first goal of the season, shaking a massive monkey off of his back. Nantel would however suffer an injury later in the game, and Bélanger has already confirmed that he will miss the games next week.
It was another strong start for the Lions who pummelled the Royals 18-6 in shots in the first period. Charles-David Beaudoin added a second goal for the Lions, but the Royals would fight back to tie it up, first on a power play goal when Mathieu Brodeur was called on a high-sticking penalty, and then early in the third period after some sustained pressure.
In overtime it was three-on-three for seven minutes, which is the standard length for overtime in the ECHL. Reading pressed real hard, but Desrosiers made two fantastic saves. A breakout pass by Hayden Shaw caught Shawn St-Amant, and he beat the defenders with speed into a partial breakaway. He then wristed the puck past Ustimenko for the victory. The 3,500+ fans at the Colisée erupted in jubilation to bring the perfect week to a close.
Week’s top performers
- Anthony Nellis (3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points)
- Charles-David Beaudoin (3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points)
- Peter Abbandonato (2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points)
- Olivier Archambault (1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points)
- Hayden Shaw (5 assists)
It was three solid games played by the Lions, and it seems like they have picked up the pace and begun gelling as a team, just in time for their marquee trip to Florida to play the strong Everblades three times. Unfortunately for them, the Laval Rocket sustained multiple injuries, and it will have a trickle down effect. On Monday, Charles-David Beaudoin and Kevin Poulin were recalled by the Rocket. The Lions will also be missing Nantel due to injury, and Khisamutdinov who still can’t travel to the U.S.