Thursday, December 16, 2010

Montreal Junior 2 at Gatineau Olympique 3 (SO) - December 15, 2010

I'm back in Ottawa for what I hope to be one of the last times ever, at least in the winter. So I had to take this opportunity to finally see a junior game in Gatineau, the Quebec town that lies just over the Rideau River and is home to the QMJHL's Olympiques.

Robert Guertin Centre

Built in 1952 and originally called the Hull Arena, the Robert Guertin Centre is a throwback to the old-time rinks that used to dominate the Canadian landscape. It is easily reachable from downtown Ottawa via either the Alexandra Bridge out of the Byward Market or the Portage Bridge off Wellington Street. Parking is free in a lot that is large enough to accommodate the crowd, and getting out is pretty quick too.

Tickets are $16 although we were fortunate to find a young lady from a local college handing out freebies that they were unable to give away on campus. With a seating capacity of just over 3,000, there's not a bad seat in the place, although many fans preferred to stand at the drink rail on the concourse that runs around the top of the seating bowl.

There's only 12 rows of seats but the glass in the end zones is low enough so that it doesn't affect the view from the top few rows. There's also a bunch of private boxes called loges that are above the seating bowl and look to provide interesting views. Food here is limited but there are combo deals such as a hot dog, bag of chips, and bottle of pop for $6. Poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curds) is the must-try for first-timers to Quebec.

There are banners honouring some famous Olympiques such as Luc Robitaille and the late Pat Burns, who coached here for 3 seasons in the mid-80s, as well as several championship banners which show the evolution of the logo and team name over the years.

Overall, this is simply a hockey rink and nothing more. I loved this place just because it was like the rinks I went to as a kid. If you are in Ottawa and the Olympiques are in town, try to make it over to the Bob for a real hockey experience.

The Game

The Montreal Junior, the 3rd ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League (which comprises the 3 junior leagues in the country) were in town to face Gatineau, who are no slouches coming in at 20-11-2-2 for 3rd in their division. A few players on both teams had been drafted, including Gatineau goalie Maxime Clermont (above), taken in the 6th round by New Jersey in the 2010 draft (2014 update: he now plays for Orlando in the ECHL).

The first period was scrappy and rather boring with no memorable chances. In the second, Montreal opened the scoring when Philippe Lefebvre took a shot that Clermont allowed to squeeze through his legs. It was a weak goal but his teammates picked him up three minutes later when Jean-Gabriel Pageau (in white below)deflected a point shot past Montreal netminder Jean-Francois Berube (drafted by LA in the 4th round, 2009).

In the third, Montreal regained the lead on a controversial play when Dylan Anderson slid into Clermont and the puck entered the net. There was a video review and the goal was upheld, which brought a cavalcade of boos from the crowd of 2,599. It looked like that goal would give Montreal the win, but Gatineau's Christian Ouellet tied it with just 37 seconds left and Clermont on the bench (below).

This brought on a 5-minute overtime period which decided nothing and a shootout (fusillade in French) was necessary to settle the match.

Gatineau went first and Igor Levitsky scored on a beautiful deke (below). Clermont saved Lefebvre's attempt and the second shooters missed for both teams, which brought Pageau to the ice with a chance to win it. He made no mistake, beating Berube with a quick low shot and Gatineau took the 3-2 shootout win.


Gatineau warmed up in different jerseys than they wore during the game, something I haven't seen before.

Congratulations to my friend Sean, whose lucky program netted him a free oil change at Monsieur Muffler. Of course, there were four other prizes involving free food, so he felt rather unlucky to have won the only prize that wasn't edible, but it's better than nothing.

Next Up

I'm done watching games for the year. I'm off to Cuba next week for a few days of sunshine (but no baseball) before returning to Canada for New Years. In 2011, I'm hoping to get to Buffalo for the World Junior semi-finals and finals, as well as an AHL game in Cleveland and a Leaf game in Toronto. Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday and I look forward to talking to you all again in 2011.



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