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Lions stalled on the tracks against the Railers

Three power-play goals weren’t enough in 6-3 loss.

Lions de Trois-Rivières

The Lions de Trois-Rivières played a mid-week game against the Worcester Railers, the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, at the Colisée Vidéotron, dropping a 6-3 decision.

Earlier in the day, the Montreal Canadiens traded forward Cam Hillis who was on loan to the Lions for defenceman Nicolas Beaudin, and also acquired forward Riley McKay on an AHL contract with Rockford.

Eric Bélanger had nothing but praise for Hillis in his time in Trois-Rivières, saying that, “(Hillis) had a real good attitude when he was sent down to the ECHL. We talked when he was sent down, we talked this morning when we found out he was traded. He thanked all of the coaching staff for the work that we did with him, and my message to him was that he’s playing his best hockey since I started coaching him, so to go there (Rockford) and continue to work on the stuff that we worked on together. We put together a plan to develop his profile as a player that would allow him to take the next step to the AHL, and he was fully on board”.

With captain Cedric Montminy still suspended for another four games, Conner Chaulk still injured, Poirier and Hillis gone, and McKay unable to arrive at the game on time, the Lions were left with only ten forwards, including John Parker-Jones who has been used as both defence and forward this season.

When asked after the game, Bélanger said that there was definitely a notable difference between 11 forwards and 10 forwards. “We saw in the first three games how good our forecheck was, it allows me to play around with my lines, it allows for more energy. For sure my strategy changes. Tonight we went back to 10 players, and after playing with 11 I told myself, yeah, it’s a big difference to return to 10 in terms of energy. Especially when you are trailing”.

The Lions started off quickly, with the top line of Ryan Francis, Anthony Beauregard, and William Leblanc applying all sorts of pressure. The Lions were rolling lines and pressuring the Railers for the first half of the first period. Shots were 8-1 when the Lions converted on a delay of game penalty, neatly passing the puck around the zone until Beauregard unloaded a point shot that beat Ken Appleby.

However, the tables turned quickly as the Railers are not undefeated for no reason. They started getting shots, and on their sixth shot on a goalmouth scramble managed to beat Lions starter Joe Vrbetic to tie it, and then again, merely 16 seconds later, when Steve Jandric overpowered defenceman Philippe Bureau-Blais to the outside and cut in front of Vrbetic to slip it between his legs. Appleby absolutely robbed Francis on a shorthanded breakaway in the first for the highlight save of the night, leaving the game at 2-1 after 20 minutes.

The second period was another close one, but the Railers truly had a much more successful forecheck, and scored two goals in a similar manner, coming from zone entry rushes on the left side of Vrbetic. The first shot beat him clean between the legs as he was moving to close the angle, and the second was similar, but he saved the first shot by the flap of his jersey in his armpit, but Nolan Vesey tapped in his own rebound.

Colin Bilek scored a second power-play goal for the Lions in the second period, thanks to a solid presence by the Lions' second line with Brett Stapley and Nicolas Guay, who were struggling thus far in the game. It was 4-2 after two periods for the Railers.

Philippe Desrosiers started the third period for the Lions, replacing Vrbetic who allowed four goals on 15 shots in two periods of work. “I could have pulled him earlier,” said Bélanger, “I asked myself the question. He’s young, he’s just starting his pro career. I went with my feeling after the period. I think that I wanted to send a bit of a wake-up call to the team.”

The change didn’t work. The Railers scored on their first shot on goal in the period, and Desrosiers did not really look ready at all. Leblanc made it 5-3 with a nice wraparound on a third power-play goal, but an empty net goal sealed it for the Railers for the win.

“I felt that tonight we were mentally and physically tired, and it showed in our decision-making,” said Bélanger. “We are doing a lot of good things offensively. There are lots of positives to take from this game. The powerplay for instance. Like it or not, there are lots of new players, we only had 10 forwards, and seven defencemen is not easy to manage for a coach. It’s still our training camp of sorts. The other team played a few pre-season games. We still need to build the team chemistry, the guys are still trying to find their identity on this team”.

I’m Watching You

  • Hard to believe that Francis is a rookie for the Lions, as he plays on the top line and is able to control the play around him, slowing down or speeding up at will. The Lions' top forward.
  • Alex Breton continues to be an exciting defenceman, not shying away from joining the rush.
  • Jonathan Joannette is limited in what he can do, but he will do what he can at 110% every shift, including taking big face-offs. He was used more in this game than some other bigger name forwards.
  • Colin Bilek caught a stick to the face and was in pain on the bench but stayed in the game.


  • History was made earlier in the day on Wednesday when the Cincinnati Cyclones and the Kalamazoo Wings faced each other, as two Black head coaches, Jason Payne and Joel Martin, were on the opposite benches for the first time in ECHL history. It is believed to be the first time in men’s professional hockey in North America. The Cyclones, a former affiliate of the Canadiens, won 2-1.
  • The Newfoundland Growlers are in town for a couple of games on Friday and Saturday.
  • McKay will join the Lions on Thursday but it’s not certain that he will play on Friday.
  • The Lions are unveiling their new mascot at Saturday’s game.