In a radio interview on Saturday night, Trois-Rivières Lions general manager Marc-André Bergeron said something to the effect that the Lions had a tendency of making the visiting goaltender the first star of the game. He may have been saying it sardonically, but in effect, this past week’s three games against the Maine Mariners were an accurate manifestation of this statement.
The Lions directed 132 shots on Jérémy Brodeur and Callum Booth and they only scored seven goals. That’s a save percentage of 0.947. The Lions would only collect two points out of six, both on overtime losses.
They were back at home for the first time since December 18, but because of current government restrictions, the games were played without fans which is, of course, financially a disaster.
The big news this week was the return of goaltender Philippe Desrosiers from the Manitoba Moose. Desrosiers has been on recall since December 27, playing two games in the AHL for the Moose and holding a 1.00 goals against average and an incredible 0.969 save percentage. In 15 previous starts with the Lions, he had 12 wins, a full two-thirds of the wins the team has won all season thus far.
Another addition to the Lions was defenceman Carl Neill who was loaned by the Laval Rocket for the first time this season. He was meant to start the season in Trois-Rivières but injuries and call-ups made it so that he’s spent the year in the AHL.
Players like Olivier Hinse, Danick Malouin, and Francis Meilleur were returned to their LNAH teams, as the roster is starting to look a bit more stable for the first time since mid-December.
Wednesday night, Lions lose 3-2
When the Lions released their lineup, two big names were missing: captain Cédric Montminy and leading-scorer Olivier Archambault. We would later learn that both suffered groin injuries the previous week. This is not all that surprising as the Lions essentially started the season over again last week after a month’s pause, and players had lost their regular-season game shape. Mathieu Gagnon was promoted to the top line to start, which is a huge step down for the Lions' offensive punch.
The first period was scoreless, but it was the second period where things started to get interesting as Maine and Trois-Rivières exchanged goals back and forth.
The Mariners struck first, three minutes in the first period, when a bad zone clear attempt by Anthony Nellis put the puck on a Mariner stick who sent the puck deep for a behind-the-net pass to the slot. 1-0.
The Lions pressured and responded with an equalizer by Charles-David Beaudoin.
Anthony Pagliarulo probably wants the next Maine goal back, as an offensive zone breakdown led to a four-on-two break for the Mariners. A clean floating shot from the slot beat Pagliarulo’s glove hand, but the Lions tied it again less than a minute later on a seeing-eye pass by Alexis D’Aoust to Nellis.
Maine scored the winning goal in the third after a succession of turnovers in the Lions zone on a routine dump-and-chase play that the Lions controlled. Pagliarulo flinched first on a shot fake and the net was wide open for the winning goal.
Thursday night, Lions lose 2-1 in overtime
The second game started good enough for the Lions who pummelled the Mariners with shots from the start and kept the Mariners from even registering a shot on net for the first ten minutes.
Booth resisted each oncoming assault until the midway point. Defenceman Dylan Labbé showed show great patience to drive the puck from the blue line and into a wraparound for the first goal of the game.
Dylan Labbé! De A à Z, il marque!— Lions de Trois-Rivières (@Lions3r) February 4, 2022
LABBE!!! 1-0#LIONS3R pic.twitter.com/OoL8edwdSI
As is often the case when one team dominates but can’t take a commanding lead, the opposing team gets a lucky bounce to get right back into the game. And that’s exactly what happened, as the Mariners scored right at the start of the second period to tie the game.
Booth then took over the game, shutting down all of the Mariners' scoring attempts. Here’s a highlight package of Booth’s 47 saves that gave the Mariners their second win in two nights.
The game ended in overtime, as Nellis took a terrible tripping penalty behind the Mariners goal, with the ensuing power-play goal ending it quickly in the Mariners' favour.
Saturday night, Lions lose 5-4 in overtime
The third game of the series was going to possibly be the biggest audience of the week for TVA Sports and the Lions. But fate had other plans as the Zamboni had a malfunction prior to the game, causing a large hole on the ice, rendering the rink unusable, and delaying the game while the team tried to figure out what to do.
Thankfully the Colisée has a second rink, so after an hour delay the game finally started on the second rink, but since there are no cameras there, TVA Sports did not broadcast the game. This turned out to be a real shame since the game ended up being quite exciting.
The first period was played very fast. The Lions came out firing and maintained significant pressure when Mariners’ defenceman Zach Malatesta took a four-minute minor for high-sticking early in the game, but the Lions couldn’t capitalize on this opportunity. Goaltender Brodeur held the Lions at bay, and the momentum began to swing.
Halfway through the first, Nicolas Larivière took a slashing minor, and the Mariners scored on a wide-open net on a rebound to take the lead. Jonathan Joannette had a breakaway with four minutes left in the first but Brodeur made the initial save, then a second save on the rebound while lying on the ice.
In the second period, Joannette had another scoring chance but Brodeur kicked out the puck almost as a pass to Pat Shea who jumped up on a breakaway while Lions defenceman Labbé pinched in at the very wrong time, scoring on Desrosiers. History repeated itself as another save by Brodeur on Shawn St-Amant led to the play going the other way for another Mariners goal to go up 3-0 after a Lions defensive breakdown. Desrosiers, who allowed three goals on nine shots, was pulled in favour of Tristan Bérubé at this point.
Eric Bélanger was so unsatisfied with his defence, that he moved Mathieu Gagnon back. Gagnon had been exclusively playing forward since returning from injury two weeks ago. This had a bit of an effect on the Lions. From a face-off in the Mariners zone, Hillis won and then recovered his own puck, skated into the slot, and shuffled the puck which slipped between the legs of Brodeur to give the Lions their first goal on their 25th shot, narrowing it to a two-goal game.
Hillis ouvre la marque pour les Lions.— Lions de Trois-Rivières (@Lions3r) February 6, 2022
Cam Hillis, 3-1 Mariners. pic.twitter.com/QbfctOlkz4
In the third period, the Lions got into penalty trouble. First, a bad boarding penalty on Joannette stopped the Lions' momentum and the Mariners added to their lead on a two-on-one shortly afterward to make it 4-1.
A smart gambler would have said ‘game over’ at this point. But the Lions have been really surprising this season and able to quickly overwhelm opponents.
Hillis added a second goal on the night after Montminy poked out a puck from under Brodeur’s pads, leaving Hillis a wide-open net to throw in the puck. 4-2
Then Nellis drove the puck towards the net off of a Lions face-off win. Being patient long enough to wait for Brodeur to be down, he flipped the puck over the pad. 4-3.
Things got a bit ugly at this point, as Hillis took a double minor for high sticking. The Lions would have had to complete their comeback a man down, if not for a Maine penalty to even things out for a couple of minutes.
The Lions actually tied up the game shortly afterward when Nellis, Charles-David Beaudoin, and Shawn St-Amant converted on a tic-tac-toe play. The Lions scored three goals in five minutes to make it 4-4.
Overtime was quickly decided as the Lions were still fighting off Hillis’ double minor. The Mariners scored on a 4-on- 3 power play to sweep the series.
Player of the Week
Not a great week for this category as the Lions struggled to score, and defensively they had a lot of breakdowns that led to goals for the Mariners.
- Nellis (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points) is currently the team’s top centre and plays heavy minutes. A big offensive contributor with Archambault missing, but there were a couple of glaring defensive mistakes that caused Maine to score.
Despite the three losses, the Lions are now ahead of the Newfoundland Growlers in the standings for the first time this season, sitting in second place. Their next games are on the road Friday and Saturday, against the North Division-leading Reading Royals.