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Lions Bites: Royal rumble

The Lions end the weekend with a series split with division leaders.

Sarah Pietrowski

The Trois-Rivières Lions headed into the week in a bit of a spiral, losing three straight games to the Maine Mariners at home, their longest losing streak since the first three games of the season. It was probably a good thing that there were no fans in the stands for those games.

The team from Trois-Rivières took to the road to try and shake off a rare misstep by visiting the North Division leading Reading Royals.

Player Movement

Here’s the thing about ECHL teams. The best players are often short-lived as they will get opportunities to continue their work at a higher level. The Lions already saw Peter Abbandonato carve out a permanent role with the Laval Rocket, Kevin Poulin is making the most of his time with the Rocket while the Canadiens deal with their goaltending issues, and Justin Ducharme and Cameron Hillis are making solid impressions on their most recent audition. These players are on AHL contracts and ECHL teams should expect to lose those players during the season.

But now something else is happening. ECHL-contracted players are being given opportunities. We saw Olivier Galipeau sign a professional tryout (PTO) with the Rocket, and this week two of the Lions' best forwards, Anthony Nellis and Alexis D’Aoust, signed PTO deals with the Manitoba Moose and Lehigh Valley Phantoms, respectively. It’s D’Aoust’s third PTO of the season, each one with a different team. As much as the loss of these players will impact the on-ice product, it’s certainly a statement by the Lions that succeeding with them will lead to individual career success. So to cheer for an ECHL team is to cheer for players getting opportunities to grow their careers, and it is also to embrace constant adversity and a lack of stability.

The Lions turned once again to the LNAH for players, signing forward Brendan Hamelin and defenceman Danick Malouin. The LNAH has been a bottomless reserve of players for Marc-André Bergeron to tap into when players were needed, but things might get much more complicated for him as the LNAH resume their season on February 18 after a long pause.

Friday night, Lions lose 6-4

Heading into the weekend, the Lions were hoping the Royals would help them finally put an end to their losing streak. The team is well known for a positive correlation between scoring first and winning, so hopes were certainly up when William Leblanc was able to break the ice four minutes into the game.

But starter Philippe Desrosiers struggled with his first ECHL start in a month. He conceded three goals in the first period and the two teams completed the first 20 tied at 3-3.

Penalties have always been a problem for the Lions this season, and it was no different in this game as Galipeau took a penalty for tripping just 30 seconds into the second period. Although the Royals did not score on the ensuing powerplay, they did score the go-ahead goal which was quickly followed by Cédric Montminy, who tied the game once again, on an incredible backhand pass by Olivier Archambault off the boards.

A hooking call to Archambault halfway through the third period seemed to just halt any effort for the go-ahead goal. The game was tight but despite a shot advantage for the Lions in the third period, it was the Royals who scored the winning goal and followed it up with the insurance marker. The Lions simply could not convert on their opportunities, falling 6-4, and losing their fourth game in a row.

Saturday night, Lions win 10-4

There are certain points in a long regular season that will be remembered at the end. This game had a couple of those instances.

After a first period that saw the Royals control the play for the most part, and coming out of the first 20 with a 2-1 lead, the Lions opened up the proverbial floodgates in biblical fashion in the second period.

Captain Montminy scored a goal right in front of the net, and a minute later newcomer Hamelin netted his first goal of the season to give the Lions the lead. Both goals were scored from exactly the same spot in the slot as the Royals defensive coverage was missing coverages in the most dangerous of places.

A couple of minutes later, Lions forward Mathieu Gagnon was called for hooking and the Royals power play went to work. At least that was the plan. What happened instead was a historic 90 seconds where the Lions scored an unbelievable three times shorthanded. First Nicolas Larivière scored, then Charles-David Beaudoin added another. Finally, Leblanc added the exclamation point with his second goal of the game to get the rout well under way.

The Lions scored two more times in the second period, — Archambault and Jonathan Joannette — totaling seven goals in the middle 20, a team record. The final 10 goals was also a record for the total amount of goals in a single game.

It was an emphatic stomping of their losing streak as the Lions got back on track to solidify their third-place position in the North Division, hot on the heels of the Newfoundland Growlers who helped the Lions by sweeping the Mariners this week.

Players of the Week

  • Nicolas Larivière (2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points)
  • Olivier Galipeau (5 assists)
  • Olivier Archambault (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points)
  • Cédric Montminy (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points)
  • William Leblanc (3 goals)

What’s next?

The postponed games from January are going to start catching up with the Lions, starting this coming week where they will play four games. It will be a season-high for them and not the last time it will happen. It starts off on Tuesday where the Lions will allow 500 fans into the Colisée to watch them play against the Adirondack Thunder. The two teams will meet again on Friday in Glens Falls. Then the Lions are off to Portland to play Saturday and Sunday against the Mariners, and you bet that they will have revenge on their minds after that three-game sweep in Trois-Rivières.