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Lions Bites: Back in action

The Lions collected four out of a possible six points in their first week back on the ice.

Tristan Bérubé
Lions de Trois-Rivières

After a 21-day forced break as a result of a COVID outbreak that pretty much infected every single player on the roster, the Lions de Trois-Rivières were finally in action for the first time in 2022. They started the year with a difficult three-in-three series on the road, where they collected four out of a possible six points.

Although it’s the first game in Lions uniform of 2022, there was some significant Lions representation at the ECHL All-Star classic last week. Olivier Archambault, Olivier Galipeau, Anthony Nellis, and Alexis D’Aoust were called to the annual showcase game where the ECHL All-Stars defeated the Jacksonville Icemen 14-7. Archambault shone, with five assists in the game, while Nellis scored a hat trick.

Player Movement

Although Hayden Shaw and Philippe Desrosiers are still with the Manitoba Moose, the Laval Rocket did return nearly all players they had loaned previously, as Shawn St-Amant, Justin Ducharme, Charles-David Beaudoin, Cédric Desruisseaux, and Galipeau were all back in the Lions lineup. Cameron Hillis, who became the first Lions player to play for the Montreal Canadiens, also returned to Trois-Rivières. Interesting trivia fact: Hillis has seen action with all three Canadiens affiliate teams this season.

The Lions continued to heavily rely on filling out their roster with players from the LNAH when they resumed practicing earlier in the month, including Maxime St-Cyr, the leading scorer of the LNAH who the Lions snapped up off waivers from the Maine Mariners.

Another player who was claimed back off waivers is defenceman Philippe Bureau-Blais, also contracted with the LNAH, who looks to have a pretty good opportunity to earn a full-time role on the team as defencemen Darick Louis-Jean and Guillaume Beaudoin are no longer with the team.

Generally speaking, the LNAH remains a tremendous asset for the Lions. Below is a list of all the LNAH players that the Lions signed throughout the season and the team they come from.

Friday night, Lions win 4-3 vs. Worcester

It was the first game back and the Lions were in Worcester to face the Railers, the affiliate of the New York Islanders. The Railers were looking to take advantage of any rust on their opponent and hoped to come out quickly. But after a careful first five minutes, the Lions opened up the scoring when St-Amant snapped an unscreened shot past Railers goalie Ken Appelby, giving Trois-Rivières the early lead.

The first period ended with the Lions putting up 19 shots. They currently lead the league in average shots per game at over 35, and nearly a month off from playing did not lead them to change their strategy on high-volume offence. Although, perhaps the game shape wasn’t quite there as the Lions saw a 3-1 lead evaporate in the second period, with the Railers tying up the game with a power-play goal as Galipeau was serving a double-minor for high-sticking.

The player of the game for the Lions was probably the only player who wasn’t called up to the Rocket, nor selected to the All-Star Classic, and that’s team captain Cédric Montminy. He scored two goals from pretty much the same spot thanks to standing in front of the goalie, taking the abuse and getting the puck on his stick to put it past the goaltender. His second goal was the game-winner with under four minutes left in the game.

It was the first professional win for Lions goaltender Tristan Bérubé, who stopped 34 of 37 shots, including a big kick save late in the third period to preserve the one-goal lead. He’s looked okay so far in two starts for the Lions, and hopefully, he gets used to playing pro real quick because it doesn’t seem like the Rocket will be returning Kevin Poulin any time soon.

Saturday afternoon, Lions lose 2-1 vs. Reading

In goal for the Royals was Canadiens’ draft pick Hayden Hawkey who just returned from an AHL PTO with the Toronto Marlies. Hawkey is playing for his fifth ECHL team in the past three seasons, but don’t let the track record fool you. Hawkey made 28 saves for the Reading win, putting in a solid effort in the very defensive contest.

The Royals wore Superman-themed jerseys for this game.

The Lions started perennial third goaltender Anthony-Carmine Pagliarulo for the first time, and he looked nervous to start, allowing the first goal on the first shot of the game. In his defense, it was a power-play goal as Montminy received a high-sticking penalty four seconds into the game.

The Lions did not obtain a shot on net until the seventh minute of play after defenceman Dylan Labbé dropped the gloves in order to try and wake up his teammates. It didn’t do much good, as the Lions only had an uncharacteristic five shots in the first period.

There was no score in the second period, as both teams really bottled up the offence for the night and delivered a very defensive contest. The third period opened up a bit more, but unfortunately, the Royals added to their lead early in the final 20 minutes to go up 2-0.

Archambault scored halfway through to get the Lions back into the game, but despite pulling Pagliarulo with two minutes left, they were unable to complete the third-period comeback, losing the first game against the divisional leader.

Sunday afternoon, Lions win 3-2 in overtime vs. Reading

Head coach Eric Bélanger decided to send a message to wake up his players after Saturday’s game, scratching Ducharme, St-Amant, and Hillis. The reason he gave Le Nouvelliste is that he mentioned dissatisfaction internally with the performance of several players and that he had to scratch several good players to get the message across. It’s the second time of the season that Bélanger did not play favourites with his roster in order to send a jolt.

The Royals wore some gorgeous alternate “Wizard” jerseys, seemingly inspired by Harry Potter’s famous scarf.

The Lions dominated the play in the first period, giving the Royals absolutely no shots for the first eight minutes of the game. By the mid-way point, it seemed Reading was certainly about to score on a tic-tac-toe goal but Tristan Bérubé made a lightning-quick cross-crease pad save to keep the game scoreless.

The first-period story centered around the Montminy. It all started with a clean hit on Charles-David Beaudoin along the boards by Garret Cockerill. Montminy immediately jumped Cockerill to try and fight him, but Cockerill was not interested so Montminy drew the only penalty on the play. As the Lions killed the penalty, Montminy jumped out of the penalty box and joined in on a 3-on-2 play, which resulted in the first goal of the game and William Leblanc’s first pro goal.

Immediately after they dropped the puck, Montminy and Cockerill dropped their gloves and began circling each other to complete some business but the referees jumped in to stop the players from fighting, despite their pleas. Both received two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct even though they never even locked up. Upon exiting the penalty box, both players finally got to complete their conversation and swung fists. They quickly tumbled to the ground and returned to the penalty box for a five-minute penalty. Both teams traded goals to end the first period. D’Aoust had the second goal for the Lions, and the team is 7-1-1 when they have the lead after the first period.

The Royals tied it up in the second period on a short-handed goal. It was only the second short-handed goal allowed by the Lions on the road this season. The third period was scoreless thanks to Bérubé who helped the Lions weather the storm of relentless attack by the Royals.

An exciting overtime period ended when Archambault scored on a breakaway, deking out Kirill Ustimenko to pick up the two points.

Players of the Week

  • William Leblanc (1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points)
  • Olivier Archambault (2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points)
  • Cédric Montminy (2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points)
  • Tristan Bérubé (2 wins, 0.928 SV%)

Next Week

The Lions will play the Adirondack Thunder twice this week, on Thursday and Saturday. The Thunder are the only divisional rival the Lions have not yet played against. Then the Lions will complete the week on Sunday against the Maine Mariners.

Divisional records for the Lions:

  • vs. Maine Mariners 4-2-0-1
  • vs. Reading Royals 5-2-0-0
  • vs. Worcester Railers 2-2-0-0
  • vs. Newfoundland Growlers 2-4-0-0
  • vs. Adirondack Thunder 0-0-0-0