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Lions Bites: Winds of Change

Team fortunes began to turn around as the latest recruits offered promise. Then the star player sustained a season-ending injury.

NHL: MAY 18 Flames at Canucks
Arturs Silovs
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There was finally be a light at the end of the dark tunnel that the Lions had been in for months now. Although they only won one of three games this past week, there was a sense of swagger that has been missing from this team for a very long time. A lot of it had to do with the fact that the team finally had a proper top line again.

Player Movement

After weeks of the Lions having to scrape the barrels for players, some good news came last week, as the Laval Rocket reassigned Shawn St-Amant to the Lions, as well as newcomer Max Kaufman. In addition, the Vancouver Canucks reassigned goaltender Arturs Silovs from Abbotsford in the AHL, and Olivier Archambault returned from injury.

The Lions also signed several players from U Sports and the NCAA after their seasons finished, ending the Lions’ dependency on loans from the Quebec Senior AAA league and the LNAH.

Wednesday night, Lions lose 4-3 to Worcester

Because the Lions did not publish their lines, here is a quick crib sheet

  • Montminy - Nellis - St-Amant
  • Larivière - Joannette - Archambault
  • Boivin - Vanstone - Desruisseaux
  • Brooks
  • Jones - Shaw
  • Romeo - Brodeur
  • Girard - Chouinard

Newcomer Zachary Brooks had the first good chance for the Lions, accepting a cross-slot pass from Archambault, but couldn’t beat the goaltender. The Railers scored first when they battled for the puck behind the net and Desrosiers had his head the wrong way, giving the Railers a completely open net to score into.

The Lions struggled to establish momentum, and Desrosiers had to make a few key saves, but just as the Lions started to get some momentum, on a Railers break into the Lions zone, the pairing of Girard-Chouinard looked terrible, as Girard focused on calling offside, while Chouinard was danced around with a deke. Head coach Eric Belanger was furious with the ref that the play wasn’t called offside. The Lions were reeling, and the Railers maintained a zone dominance until they scored a third goal to put the Lions in a huge hole after 20 minutes.

The Lions finally showed some life after Archambault beat out an icing call and backhanded a pass between the legs of two players directly onto the stick of Cedric Desruisseaux, who snapped it past Ken Appelby to make it 3-1.

After that goal, the Lions were dominant in the second period, controlling the puck for the majority of the time. Play started to get chippy, and several scrums broke out. Following a few physical altercations and one holding penalty, the Lions were on a four-on-three advantage, which they used to their fullest, scoring a second goal as an Archambault point shot was deflected by St-Amant to bring the Lions within a goal.

Nellis was completely stoned on an incredibly lucky save in the final minute after Archambault deked out three Railers to cause chaos and flip the puck over to a streaking Nellis. Appelby looked behind him on the shot, but he did manage to just squeeze the puck.

The Railers scored within the first minute of the third period on a weak wraparound that Desrosiers just mishandled, and the puck slowly trickled into the net to give the Railers a two-goal lead once again. The Lions quickly answered when Tim Vanstone caused a turnover in the neutral zone and flipped the puck over to St-Amant for a two-on-one with Desruisseaux, who scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-3, but it wouldn’t be enough, and the Railers came away with the win.

The return of Archambault and St-Amant immediately changed the makeup of the Lions, who probably played their best hockey in a long time. However, the weak link can be pointed to Desrosiers, who has struggled since he returned from the Moose in the AHL. In his defence, he made several great saves in this game.

With the loss, the Lions dropped into fourth place in the North Division, eroding a comfortable divisional standing with their poor results over the last few months.

Thursday night, Lions lose 4-1 to Growlers

The Lions needed to start off strong, but instead started off with Felix-Olivier Chouinard taking a penalty for high-sticking. The Growlers have been known for scoring quickly and early on the Lions, but not in this game as the Lions killed off the penalty and wrested any hope for momentum away from the Growlers by allowing no shots until the 13th minute of play in the first period.

The Lions scored first when St-Amant beat Keith Petruzzelli with a solid wrist shot.

The Lions were 19-4-2 when scoring the first goal, so the game started well for the Lions as they held Newfoundland to just three shots in the first.

The tables turned in the second period, as the Growlers turned on the jets and maintained pressure until they managed to tie up the game five minutes in. The period sunk Trois-Rivières, as the Growlers added a second goal to come out of the first 40 with a 2-1 lead.

The Lions were absolutely roaring in the third, playing with renewed desperation, knowing full well that a loss could mean falling out of a playoff spot. Shots were raining down on Petruzzelli, but the Lions could not find the equalizer.

A questionable line change by the Growlers midway throuh the period could have been called a too-many-men penalty, but the referee showed leniency and allowed the Growlers to maintain possession. On the subsequent play, the team scored a goal, to the fury of Bélanger who now had a second game in a row featuring a bad call against.

The Growlers scored 30 seconds later to make it 4-1, and then locked things down giving up one shot in the final 10 minutes of the period.

The Growlers completed their regular-season domination of the Lions, taking 10 of 14 games between the two teams with one overtime loss. A great rivalry developed between these two teams, with some memorable moments. Their next meeting would be in the playoffs if the Lions can hang on to a spot.

Friday night, Lions beat Maine 1-0

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the debut of goaltender Arturs Silovs, and he certainly made a positive initial impressions, earning a 31-save shutout, the team’s first since their first-ever franchise win back on October 29. He was in control for the majority of the game, tracking the puck well, showing good lateral movement, and generally giving the Lions players a chance to win the game.

The dangerous top line of St-Amant, Nellis, and Archambault was buzzing from the start of the game, but Mariners goaltender Callum Booth was doing his best to keep them off the scoreboard. He was able to stop all but one shot, which started in the Lions zone as newcomer Connor Welsh gained control of the puck and passed it out to Archambault streaking up the side. Archambault then found Nellis flying the middle to catch the puck on a breakaway. Booth made a great save on Nellis, but St-Amant caught the rebound and put it into a wide-open net to give the Lions the only goal of the game.

Nellis had a few chances, including a huge chance to create a two-goal lead early in the second period, but Booth made a point-blank save. The Lions wouldn’t have another shot for the next 10 minutes, as the Mariners completely took over the period.

It didn’t matter in the end as Silovs withstood the Mariners’ offence, and the Lions finally broke their losing streak in a fun game to watch. Don’t let the score fool you, this was probably the best game from the Lions in a long while, and quite entertaining as well with plenty of scoring chances, including about three posts for each team.

The game finished with a nail-biter, as Mathieu Gagnon was in the penalty box for flipping the puck over the boards, but Trois-Rivières killed the penalty and Silovs held strong. Callum Booth congratulated Silovs after the game as the two teams were coming off the ice.

The Lions are now 7-4-3-1 on the season with their divisional rival, placing them back in fourth place in the North Division, and a playoff spot.

Players of the Week

  • Shawn St-Amant (3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points)
  • Olivier Archambault (3 assists)
  • Cédric Desruisseaux (2 goals)
  • Arturs Silovs (31-save shutout)

What’s next?

The Lions are heading out for a four-game road trip this week, with some brand new opponents in their sights. First on Wednesday they will play against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, the ECHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, who are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, and are trying make a push for a playoff position in the South Division. Then the Lions travel to South Carolina for a tough three-games-in-three nights set starting Friday, against the Stingrays, who are the ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. The Stingrays recently changed coaches, and are looking to claw their way out of the final spot in the South Division.

They will have to do this without their player of the week, Shawn St-Amant, however, as he was injured in Friday’s game when a slapshot from Archambault deflected as St-Amant was rounding the back of the net, and hit him square in the face. He will now miss the remainder of the regular season, leaving the Lions’ lineup in limbo once again.