The Lions de Trois-Rivières faced the Maine Mariners in a set of three games for week seven of the ECHL calendar. The two teams previously played three games against each other, notably a wild 15-goal game that the Lions won in overtime on November 12th.
With both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens dealing with injuries and quarantined players, the roster impact trickled down to the ECHL level where both teams had to shore up their rosters with players from the La Ligue Nord Américaine de Hockey. The Mariners signed a couple of players out of LNAH Rivière-du-Loup, notably one Garrett Clarke. He will pop up a few times during this report.
The Lions also had to reach out to their provincial lifeline of the LNAH in order to fill out their roster. The most notable addition was Maxime St-Cyr, who is the leading scorer of that circuit. St-Cyr is a very interesting addition to the Lions because he clearly has the talent to be a regular player at the ECHL level. However, since the pandemic St-Cyr had completed his degree at the University of Moncton, had a second child, and traded in his skates for a tie. He settled in nicely in the LNAH where he can play on weekends and said that his dream of professional hockey was behind him. It remains to be seen what a week’s long experience with the Lions did to convince him otherwise.
Charles-David Beaudoin also returned from the Laval Rocket in time to fill out the defensive corps who were overworked in the Newfoundland series with Mathieu Gagnon still on the Injured Reserve.
The arrivals had to be counterbalanced with some departures, as a few long-term players left the Lions this past week.
Pierrick Dubé was released early in the week. The plan was for him to join the French National Team in Poland for a national teams tournament, and then see what was in the cards afterward. There was plenty of speculation whether he would return to the QMJHL to complete the season as a highly prized over-ager, and that a return to the Lions would be a “wait and see” situation. However, the Wheeling Nailers claimed Dubé off of waivers and now own his player rights, therefore Dubé’s time with the Lions is over.
Darick Louis-Jean was also put on waivers on Saturday in order to release him from his contract after playing Friday night. It turned out to simply be a numbers issue, as there weren’t enough roster spots to keep him. By Monday he was signed to a new contract and placed on reserve.
Wednesday night, Lions win 4-2
It was a hesitant start by both teams who played cautiously against one another to start the week. Neither wanted to be the team to make the first mistake, although the Mariners were probably gripping their sticks a little tighter given the Lions' recent performances.
About 14 minutes into the game, Shawn St-Amant came close to scoring with an incredible deke, nearly completing a Forsberg, but ultimately just ran out of room. Shortly thereafter Anthony DeLuca broke the ice on an incredible pass by newcomer Philippe Bureau-Blais.
The Mariners proved to be gamers and scored quickly in the first minute of the second period. Then it was two former LNAH teammates, Danick Malouin and Clarke, mixing it up. This game was heavily marked by the addition of LNAH players and it was another LNAH signee who put his name on the scoresheet for the Lions, as Nicolas Larivière scored his second goal of the season to put the Lions back on top.
St-Cyr had the opportunity to score a goal in his first ECHL game on a penalty shot but missed. The Mariners tied it up by the end of the second and had the Lions lost the game, the missed penalty shot would certainly have been seen as the turning point.
The game was at a deadlock in the third period until the mid-way point when Olivier Galipeau threw a perfect pass to St-Cyr who was looking for the backdoor play. Goaltender Jérémy Brodeur made the big save, but Cédric Desruisseaux was right there to convert on the rebound to give the Lions the lead for good.
St-Cyr then added an insurance goal for the Lions, outworking his coverage in front of the Mariners net and flipping a rebound off of a DeLuca point shot past Brodeur.
Friday night, Lions lose 4-3 in shootout
With a player recalled to Providence (who were in Laval playing the Rocket), and another placed on the Commissioners list (an indication either tested positive or contact tracing), the Mariners played one man short for the game, as did the Lions who couldn’t replace Alexis D’Aoust who signed a PTO with Providence. The Lions had Gabriel Verplaest in their plans from the LNAH, but he did not sign his contract due to COVID protocol.
Thankfully the Lions could count on a big return in the form of defenceman Hayden Shaw who returned from injury after missing the Newfoundland series. But Shaw didn’t have the best start to his game, getting a penalty in the first minute of play that the Mariners immediately converted into a power-play goal.
The Lions tied the game up midway through the first, and then took the lead shortly thereafter when Shawn St-Amant scored his second of the game on assists by Olivier Archambault and Olivier Galipeau. These three players are truly the constants in an otherwise tumultuous season for the Lions.
The end of the first period was not without drama, as Clarke drew a match penalty for pulling Guillaume Beaudoin's hair in an attempt to injure. He avoided any supplemental discipline for the incident.
Despite total domination in shots by the Lions in the second period, it was the Mariners who took the lead by the midway point of the game with a goal that Lions goaltender Kevin Poulin would certainly like to get back.
But as the second period was drawing to a close, Jonathan Joannette scored his first goal of the season to tie up the game. The player’s reaction to scoring the goal was filled with emotion, but also the other players on the team showed a lot of support. For the player who oftentimes finds himself as a scratch, or as was the case a few weeks ago, released due to too many players on the roster, it’s not known how much longer Joannette will be on the team, but he made the most of it in this game tallying two points.
The third period and overtime solved nothing, but Maine could be said to have been the superior team. In the shootout, Callum Booth stopped Justin Ducharme, Cedric Montminy, and Archambault, while Poulin gave a goal to Cameron Askew. Maine earned the win, but the Lions still came out with a point.
Saturday afternoon, Lions win 5-2
In the final game before the Christmas holidays, the Lions received an early present when Peter Abbandonato returned from the Rocket and D’Aoust returned from the Providence Bruins. On the flip side, the Mariners were playing short-handed with only 13 skaters available, so right off the bat, the odds tipped heavily towards the Lions.
The first period was mainly controlled by the Lions who demonstrated poise and prolonged offensive zone control. It’s really thanks to Brodeur that the Mariners escaped that period in a scoreless tie.
The Mariners jumped out into the lead early in the second period on a power-play goal when St-Cyr was called for tripping, his second minor penalty of the game. But St-Cyr redeemed himself when he broke up a zone entry and pushed the puck forward to send Archambault on a breakaway. The team’s leading scorer made no mistakes and tied the game.
The Lions added two more goals in the second period. First, Abbandonato attacked the slot and showed great patience to hold the puck until the very last moment before passing it to Anthony Nellis who quickly snapped it over Brodeur’s glove hand. Then D’Aoust chose the shot option on a two-on-one zone entry with Justin Ducharme and also shot it glove side. All three Lions goals were scored in that area thus far. Clearly, the book is out on goalie Brodeur.
A scary-looking fall happened to Maine forward Brendan St-Louis, who fell on his leg, the sort of play that typically results in a bad knee injury. St-Louis was able to leave the ice on his feet with assistance.
Clarke, who somehow avoided suspension for the hairpulling incident from Friday night, stood out for the wrong reasons again in this game. At the end of the second period, having just completed a minor penalty, he ran up Maxime Villemaire (his teammate on Rivière-du-Loup) with a forearm and then proceeded to challenge Lions’ players as they were trying to leave the ice. That earned him a minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. He would earn another 10-minute misconduct during a brawl-filled third period. All-in-all, in the three games he played with the Mariners this week, he earned himself 45 minutes of penalties. He played the villain role to perfection, earning boos from the crowd every time he came close to the puck.
Speaking of the third period, it was a penalty-filled affair. The Lions added two more goals early in the period from Archambault and Abbandonato, and then things deteriorated as 30 minutes of penalties were handed out.
Overall, it was another successful week for the Lions. They earned five out of a potential six points and cemented their second-place position in the division ahead of the Christmas break.
- Olivier Archambault (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points)
- Olivier Galipeau (4 assists)
- Shawn St-Amant (2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points)
- Maxime St-Cyr (1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points)
- Anthony DeLuca (1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points)