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Lions Bites: It’s a wrap. Bring on the playoffs.

The Lions complete the regular season strong, Growlers are up next.

Anthony Nellis
Lions de Trois-Rivières

The Lions de Trois-Rivières officially qualified for the postseason Friday night, the penultimate game of the final week of the regular season.

Despite a very difficult month of February, the Lions had enough of a hot streak in November and December to build a buffer, although things were a bit precarious about three weeks ago. But with the return of several players from the AHL and the addition of some solid rookies from the NCAA and USports, the Lions put together a solid enough run to qualify with two games remaining on the calendar. It certainly helped that the Maine Mariners had a brutal schedule, playing four times against the Reading Royals.

Player Movement

Olivier Archambault missed all four games this week with an undisclosed virus. Also missing all the games this week was William Leblanc who suffered his second concussion in a short amount of time last week. His season is probably over.

Alexandre Fortin missed the final two games of the season with a minor injury.

Tuesday night, Lions beat Adirondack 3-2

Prior to starting a three-game series against Worcester where both teams would battle for playoff positioning, the Lions faced off against the bottom team in the North Division, the Adirondack Thunder. Obviously this was a huge opportunity to gain some additional buffer for earning the playoff spot, but the Thunder were aiming to play spoilsports. Despite Montreal Alouettes head coach Anthony Calvillo dropping the puck for the ceremonial face-off to get the crowd going, it was the Thunder who started the game off with a flurry of shots, all fought off by starter Philippe Desrosiers.

But four minutes into the game, Max Kaufman received a pass from behind the net from Tim Vanstone. He was left uncovered long enough to get a couple of attempts and will a goal into the net from point-blank to put the Lions up 1-0.

The Lions continued to dominate the first period while the Thunder’s shaky defence did their best. Ten minutes after Kaufman’s goal, it was Hayden Shaw’s turn to receive a pass from the goal line from Justin Ducharme. Left unmanned, Shaw had all the time in the world to pick his angle and shot, whipping the puck past Alex Sakellaropoulos to give the Lions a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Although, as the saying goes, a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey.

Sure enough, in the 17th minute, Mathieu Brodeur misplayed the puck behind Desrosiers’ goal and it was recovered by Shawn Weller who passed it to a loosely covered Ryan Smith in the slot where he managed to whip it into the net. A few minutes later, in the final seconds of the period, loose defensive coverage in front of the net cost the Lions the lead as the Thunder tied it up at two.

Both teams must have heard it from their respective coaches because defensive coverages tightened up considerably, keeping it scoreless in the second period.

But in the second minute of play in the final period, Julien Nantel — who was playing possibly his best game of the season — managed to get the lead back for the Lions for good after Brenden Locke won a face-off and a set play got the puck behind the net for a quick pass onto Nantel’s stick who made no mistake on his shot.

The Thunder pulled their goalie, but the closest to getting a goal was Alexis D’Aoust who missed the empty net shot with pressure on him from centre ice. The final was 3-2 and the magic number for the Lions was down to one.

Wednesday night, Lions lose 3-0 to Worcester

You got the feeling watching this game that it was going to be one of those nights, where no matter how many shots were put on net nothing would go in. Sure enough, Ken Appleby stopped all 43 shots directed his way. A few were difficult, but credit also needs to be given to the Railers' defence, as a lot of shots were from far out and not particularly dangerous. It would have been a bad game to show someone if you were trying to introduce them to the ECHL or to the Lions.

The review of this game is brisk, and the game is best forgotten.

Friday night, Lions win 5-0 against Worcester

It was game two of the three-game series against the Railers, and the Lions were once again hoping to close out a playoff berth. They would have to do it without Fortin who was out with what was called a minor injury.

The Lions played timidly in the first period, frequently making sloppy passes and being called offside on offensive zone entries. Desrosiers held fort on the other end keeping the game scoreless while the Lions tried to settle their nerves.

In the final minute of play, the Lions finally put it together when Ducharme passed the puck out of the corner to Anthony Nellis who put the puck on net, and D’Aoust cleaned it up with ten seconds left to put the Lions up 1-0.

In the second period, it was the Railers who appeared disorganized, and the Lions absolutely pounced all over them scoring four times in the middle stanza.

First Tim Vanstone combined with Max Kaufman 72 seconds into the second period to give the Lions a two-goal lead.

Shortly after, Cedric Montminy cleaned up a rebound to score a power-play goal before Nellis whipped a perfect wrist shot past an unscreened Colten Ellis. Finally, Brenden Locke completed a good piece of business by Jonathan Joannette who willed the puck to the net front, causing defensive chaos.

The Lions locked it down defensively in the third period, preserving the shutout for Desrosiers, his third of the season. The Colisée was rammed with over 4,100 fans, one of the best attended games of the season.

Saturday afternoon, Lions win 3-2 in overtime against Worcester

Although the Lions qualified the day before, the Railers were fighting for their playoff lives, needing a win against the Lions combined with a Maine loss against the Newfoundland Growlers.

Both teams traded chances early in the first period, but the ice was broken at the midway point when D’Aoust deftly kept the puck in the Railers zone and passed it across the blueline to Bradley Johnson who one-timed it towards the net. Nellis deflected the shot in the slot and past Ken Appleby, solving the keeper on their tenth shot of the period.

D’Aoust and Johnson again combined assists for the Lions' second goal, this time in the second period, as Ducharme outwaited Appleby, dancing around him, and dipping the puck in the net.

It was high drama in the third period as the Railers were fighting for their lives, and yet the Lions smelled blood and dominated the period. The Railers pulled their goaltender with two minutes left and former Ottawa Senator Bobby Butler tied up the game, sending it to overtime and leaving the Railers with a slim ray of hope for the postseason.

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the Lions, Montminy fought hard to get the puck to the boards, backhanding a pass into the slot that Nellis one-timed perfectly, beating Appleby and bringing an end to the Lions' season on a high.

Players of the Week

  • Justin Ducharme (1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points)
  • Anthony Nellis (3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points)
  • Cedric Montminy (1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points)
  • Alexis D’Aoust (1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points)

What’s Next

The Lions complete will submit their playoff roster on Monday which should include all familiar names and a few names who are still with the Laval Rocket.

They start their first-round series against the Growlers in St. John’s on Friday.

  • Game 1 – Friday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. ET in St. John’s
  • Game 2 – Saturday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m. ET in St. John’s
  • Game 3 – Tuesday, April 26 at 7 p.m. ET in Trois-Rivières
  • Game 4 – Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m. ET in Trois-Rivières
  • Game 5 (If Necessary) – Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m. ET in Trois-Rivières
  • Game 6 (If Necessary) – Monday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET in St. John’s
  • Game 7 (If Necessary) – Tuesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m. ET in St. John’s