Monday, November 11, 2019

Acadie-Bathurst Titan 3 at Moncton Wildcats 6 (QMJHL) - November 10, 2019

The second stop on my whirlwind tour of the Maritimes was Moncton, home of the Wildcats. I picked up a rental car in downtown Halifax (thus saving on exorbitant airport fees) and drove 260 kilometers along pristine highway (which has a $4 toll), arriving at my hotel around 1:00 on Sunday afternoon. This gave me a couple of hours to rest before heading over to the Avenir Centre for the 4:00 start.

Opened just last year with naming rights bought by a New Brunswick audiology company, the venue is located on Main Street, just a short walk from the nightlife area a few blocks east. It also hosts the NBL's Moncton Magic, and there is even a small skating rink next to the main entrance, though it was too early in the season to be operational.

As I was not covering this facility for Stadium Journey, I had to pick up a ticket. Despite arriving an hour before the game, there were long lines at the box office that moved very slowly. When I asked for a specific seat, I was told that they can only give me the best available seat as it was less than an hour to game time. I guess that was to speed things up, but it didn't seem to be working as it took me 10 minutes to get a ticket with just 3 people in front of me. The cost was $23.10, and I could have bought a specific seat online for $24, including the $3 will call fee. In the end, it didn't matter as I stood for most of the game.

Once the ticket had been acquired, I entered the arena and saw the Moncton Sports Wall of Fame. If you look at the screens in the photo above, it appears as if Rheal Cormier was inducted twice, but the screen are just rotating through all the inductees.

There are a few displays including one on the Moncton Mets, who were not an affiliate of the New York Mets, but an amateur senior league team.

To get to the concourse, you have to go upstairs from the atrium at the main entrance, which is shown below.

Inside, you have a fairly narrow concourse that leads to the portals. There are concessions all around, offering typical stadium fare, but as usual, I chose Tim Horton's for their delicious donuts. It is interesting that most fans choose Tim's as well despite there being one on every street corner. The good thing is that they do not jack up their prices in the arena, which is one reason that there are long lines throughout the game.

On one side of the ice, there is a large standing area beneath the suites; much of this is reserved for wheelchairs and TV cameras, though some fans do stand here for a bit.

Across the way, there is a single standing area beneath section 116, right at center ice. This is the best standing spot I have seen in hockey; there is a rail for drinks and donuts as well. However, this area is actually ticketed - there are 14 numbered spots and each is sold for the game. Fortunately for me, a dad with two young kids bought three tickets here, not knowing that they were standing spots. The usher was kind enough to let him sit in some open seats and told me that I could stand at their spot without worry.

The view below is from directly opposite that standing rail, which is visible beneath the scoreboard.

The seats are red, black, and gray but there is no discernible pattern to them. Looks pretty cool anyway.

Note the Moosehead Light Ice Bar in the photo above, this is an ice-level area that seemed to be reserved for those with tickets, though I did not investigate further.

There is even a Honda SUV in the corner, much like there used to be at Barclays Center for the Islanders before this season.

The photo below is from above the Ice Bar and you can see the tables and stools there.

The Wildcats have been around since 1995 and were known as the Alpines (after a local beer) for one season before taking on their current moniker. They have two President Cup titles, but have yet to take home the Memorial Cup, losing the final as the host team in 2006 and losing all three round-robin games in 2010.

Overall, Avenir Centre is an excellent junior hockey venue with some great fans and staff. Once they speed up the ticketing process, it will be ideal and I hope to be back for a Magic game sometime.

The Game

Once again, the visitors were the hapless Acadie-Bathurst Titan, who had lost an overtime heartbreaker in Halifax the night before and had just one win in 19 tries. Moncton were 14-4 but one of those losses came at Bathurst on Friday, so they wanted to avoid being embarrassed at home. They came out strong, peppering Titan goalie Felix-Anthony Ethier with 25 shots in the first period, only to be stoned on every attempt. Of course, Acadie scored against the run of play to take a 1-0 lead.

Could Ethier keep the Wildcats off the board? Nope. Early in the second, Mika Cyr completed a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Jakob Pelletier (26th overall pick to Calgary this year). A few minutes later, Alexander Khovanov (3rd round, Minnesota, 2018, #31 above) finished a nifty rush to make it 2-1 Wildcats. The Titan tied things up just a minute later, but Khovanov potted his second and assisted on a power-play marker by Jeremy McKenna that gave Moncton a 4-2 advantage entering the final period.

In the first minute, Yan Aucoin got the visitors within one on his second of the evening, but Moncton continued to dominate and McKenna added his second for some insurance, with Christian Huntley finishing the scoring as Moncton won 6-3. Moncton tripled Acadie in shots 57-19 and Ethier was awarded the 3rd star despite giving up 6 goals. Khovanov (2-2) and Pelletier (0-4) finished with 4 points each, while Wildcat netminder Olivier Rodrigue (2nd round, Edmonton, 2018) got the win despite a less than stellar performance.

I don't include a Player to Watch in my junior hockey posts, because it is pretty obvious who is going to make it. Both Khovanov (37 points in 18 games) and Pelletier (36 in 19) will be in the NHL eventually and make Moncton a very enjoyable team to watch. If you happen to be driving through New Brunswick, try to see a game at Avenir Centre.



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