The future of the Montréal Canadiens, in the near and medium term, resides with its AHL affiliate in St. John's. Many of its brighter prospects will be there, playing for the IceCaps, developing under the tutelage of head coach Sylvain Lefebvre.
For the last decade and more, the Canadiens have had their farm team in Hamilton, which wasn't an ideal situation. Observers explain that the sporting landscape in southern Ontario is dominated by the CFL's Tiger Cats, and by the Maple Leafs in hockey. In terms of drawing fans, the Canadiens were fighting a battle with the local residents' natural instinct to cheer against the Canadiens, a natural rival of their Leafs. The Bulldogs were never able to really take off.
With the shuffling of franchises in the AHL, and four of them shifting to California, the St. John's team needed a parent club and the Canadiens were only too happy to fill in. They'll be the big dog in the local market, and have a deep pool of lifelong Canadiens fans to draw from to cheer on its young protégés.
The team started the season with a quick two-game road trip to play the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, earning an opening 3-1 win and then an ugly 6-1 loss, with goalie Dustin Tokarski allowing five goals in the third period.
Here are some notes on the 5-2 home opener win against the Rochester Americans.
Sven Andrighetto makes it 2-1early in the second, with assists from Bud Holloway and Charles Hudon. Play started as a nice odd-man rush, hit post, Sven cashed in the rebound.
Christian Thomas on a nice rush partial breakaway, wheeled around and caught a pass skating backwards, turned back forward and sniped a shot home. Assists from Mark Barberio and Morgan Ellis, the first defence pairing. 3-1The IceCaps is the youngest team in the AHL, average age of barely more than 21 years old.
They’re up against the Americans, farm team of the Sabres. Names that I recognize:
Andrey Makarov, a goalie who played with Darren Dietz and Dalton Thrower with the Saskatoon Blades, and who played with the Russian WJC team.
Cal O’Reilly, the brother of the Tim Horton’s enthusiast.
Jack Nevins, former Bulldogs enforcer we traded away at the deadline for Torrey Mitchell. I haven’t heard his name called yet.
William Carrier, Justin Bailey, two guys we wanted to draft in 2014.
Patrick Kaleta. Ugh.
Mike McCarron with a good toe-drag and deke around a defenceman for a good chance on goal.
Nikita Scherbak almost cashed in a nice backhand pass from Mark Barberio, cut off by the goalie.
Second period over, all to the IceCaps’ advantage.
22-20 shots for IceCaps, who are 0 for 2 on the PP. Amerks are 0 for 3.
Amerks head coach Randy Cunneyworth will be a guest during intermission.
In probably related moves, the IceCaps announced that they have signed Eric Neilson and ceded big Stéfan Fournier to the ECHL's Brampton Beast.
3rd period started, Brett Lernout earns an early minor penalty, his second of the game.
Marc Bergevin and Larry Carrière are reportedly in attendance.
IceCaps kill off the penalty, then buzz around in the offensive zone, until Christian Thomas scores his second, cashing in a bouncing puck in front of the net. Morgan Ellis and Daniel Carr earn assists.
IceCaps were killing a penalty, the Amerks pulled their goalie, great work by the ‘Caps, until Bud Holloway scored into an empty net.
Both Jérémy Grégoire and Jacob de la Rose could have gotten their first goal earlier on if they’d been a little more lucky, had gotten a bead on the empty net.
Final score 5-2 IceCaps.
Zach Fucale gets his first AHL win.
Three stars are:
3) Jason Akeson
2) Sven Andrighetto (2 goals)
1) Christian Thomas (2 goals)
Hardest-working Player of the Game:
Morgan Ellis (2 assists, great work on penalty kill)
And a link to the game sheet.