Opportunism was the difference for Growlers in Game 4 win over Lions

The Lions face elimination on Saturday.

The Lions de Trois-Rivières dropped Game 4 of their best-of-seven series against the Newfoundland Growlers by a score of 5-2 on Thursday night in front of 3,500 fans at the Colisée Vidéotron.

The game started as bad as it could for the Lions, as Shawn St-Amant, arguably the team’s best forward, was injured behind the action in the first minute of play after running into a Growlers player. He left the ice in fury, going straight to the locker room and never returning. This left the Lions with only nine forwards for basically the entire match.

The loss of St-Amant really seemed to throw the Lions off as the lines had to be immediately shuffled, and they started chasing the game.

The Growlers opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Ryan Chyzowski took the puck away from defenceman Connor Welsh along the boards and broke towards Philippe Desrosiers, snapping a perfect shot over his blocker.

The Lions did start to settle down afterward, and began getting shots on Growlers goaltender Keith Petruzzelli, aiming 18 shots on goal in the first period, but none got by the Growlers’ keeper, even during a minute-long four-on-three advantage.

The meat of the game was played out in the second period. The Lions were playing very well, but Petruzzelli was up to the task, first stopping Max Kaufman on a point-blank shot, getting just enough of the puck to deflect it off the post. Olivier Archambault had a partial breakaway stopped by Petruzzelli, and Kaufman had another opportunity stopped as well throughout the period, shutting down some quality looks.

The Growlers certainly took advantage of theirs, scoring three times in the middle period. Their second goal seven minutes in, by Marc Johnstone, was scored off of a second rebound during a scramble in front of Desrosiers. Their third and fourth goals were scored 11 seconds apart, as the Lions fell apart defensively for a brief instant. The Growlers dominated the Lions in shots in the frame, 18-7.

The Lions came out hard in the third period, pummeling the Growlers with shots. The Growlers tried to establish a zone presence, but Josh Brook broke up a pass to start a zone breakout. Peter Abbandonato and Justin Ducharme broke out on a two-on-one, and Ducharme converted the first goal of the game for the Lions.

The moments after the goal were really the first time you felt that the Lions had the momentum going their way. They continued to pressure the Growlers, but Newfoundland tightened up its defence and really made it hard on their opponent. Petruzzelli made a notable save on Brook, who had a clean shot on goal.

The Lions pulled their goalie with six minutes left in the game, but there wasn’t much room to move on the ice, and they struggled to establish a zone presence. They failed to get a shot on net for two-and-a-half minutes, until they took a too many men on the ice penalty which ended their man advantage, halting the pressure.

The Lions once again pulled Desrosiers one minute into the penalty, but again didn’t get a shot. The Growlers scored into the empty net to take a 5-1 lead with two minutes to go.

Hayden Shaw added a second goal for the Lions in the final minute of play, but it was too little, too late.

Given the feisty way that the third game of the series ended, it was interesting to see how disciplined both teams stayed in Game 4, with no scrums after the whistle and physical play kept to a minimum, which was unusual to see between these two rivals.

There was no immediate update on St-Amant after the game. The Lions are missing their top goalie (Arturs Silovs), their top defenceman (Olivier Galipeau), and now possibly their top forward.

Game 5 will be on Saturday night in Trois-Rivières, as the Lions will try to avoid elimination and send the game back to St. John’s.

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