If the first game of the 2003 Royal Bank Cup is any indication the fans in Charlottetown will be in for quite a treat.
Lennoxville defenseman Mathieu Pelletier scored the game-winning goal 14:08 into a double overtime thriller after he forced a turnover in the neutral zone, creating a two-on-one situation for the Cougars.
The 5’9” defenseman from St-Louis du Ha Ha, Québec, jumped into the offensive zone after Carl Gangon picked up the loose puck and headed towards the goal.
“He passed me the puck, a nice pass and I just tipped it,” he said.
Pelletier called the goal the biggest of his young career.
“In a national championship it is always satisfying to score the winning goal,” he said before passing praise to his teammates. “Pierre-Luc Gosselin played real well, two goals and (goalie) Jason Smith played real good also with big saves in key moments.”
The fact these two teams met just over a week ago in the round-robin of the Fred Page Cup was key in Lennoxville’s plan of attack.
“We had an impression of what they were able to do and how they were working in PKs and power plays, so it was real good to play against them in Cornwall,” Pelletier said.
The game in Cornwall, a 7-5 Abbies victory was deceiving, he said.
“We were sure to be in the finals so we didn’t play our best. I guess they didn’t play their best either, but for sure it was a good thing.”
Lennoxville coach, and former NHLer, Stephan Lebeau, said before the game a good start would help, but would not make or break their championship.
“A good start is always important for a tournament like this, but you have to play four games also. There is lots of hockey throughout the week and if we start with a win that’s good, but if we start with a loss it’s not the end,” he said.
Pelletier said a good start was key for the week ahead.
“It was real important…it would give us the momentum, the emotion we need to continue. For confidence also it was real important. It is satisfying for sure,” he said.
Abbies coach Jeff Squires was happy with his team’s efforts but not with the loss.
“Obviously it’s a disappointing loss, 5-4 in overtime, I really felt perhaps the game shouldn’t have gone to overtime but…anytime you lose an overtime game it’s a tough one,” he said. “I thought we showed a lot of persistence, we were down 2-0 early, answered right back very quickly. We made it 2-1 and got some momentum and made it 2-2 when Brad Larter scored a power play goal. As much as we were down we continued to keep coming back and had the lead at different times and unfortunately couldn’t hold it.”
The important thing, he said, is that his team bounces back.
“It’s a week long tournament and we’re not happy with the loss but we lost the battle, we didn’t lose the war. There’s three more games and all we have to do is get to that semi-final on Saturday. We’re still very positive about things and we’re going to continue to get ready to play tomorrow. Nothing’s changed from the beginning,” he said. “We lost one game let’s not throw everything out the window just yet.”
Neither team disappointed in a game which saw the Cougars blow a 2-0 lead in the second period, and fall behind late in the third before a Charlottetown turnover led to the tying goal, forcing overtime.
The final shot count for the game was 52-44 for the Abbies.
The opening period saw Pierre-Luc Gosselin of Lennoxville open the scoring at 14:53 after the Cougars were unable to capitalize on a two-man advantage earlier in the frame. Mathieu Pelletier and Julien Cardinal assisted.
The Abbies best chance came while shorthanded when Rob Chapman was able to walk in virtually untouched on Cougar goalie Jason Smith, who stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first.
Lennoxville came out strong early in the second, with Gagnon putting one over Corey Roberts, but it was the Abbies who made the most of their opportunities.
Charlottetown’s Brad Larter responded one minute and seven seconds later, converting a power play goal just 12 seconds after the Cougars’ Mathew Oke was penalized for holding.
With the score tied 2-2 to begin the third period, Francis Walker gave Charlottetown its first lead of the game one minute in when he buried a questionable goal past Smith on the short side.
The Cougars wasted no time tying the game at three when Joel Castonguay beat Roberts on the short side.
The Abbies once again bounced back quickly as Joel Petkoff scored his first point of the game, scoring less than 40 seconds after Castonguay’s goal.
After 10 minutes of back-and-fourth scoreless hockey, Abbies defenseman Brad Lewis made a costly turnover in front of his own net leading to Gosselin’s second goal of the game, deflating a Charlottetown crowd sensing victory. The goal knotted the score at four with less than four minutes to play.
With time winding down Rob Chapman broke in alone on the Lennoxville goalie from the wing, but Smith covered the angle well, leading to Chapman’s hot catching Smith in the crest, ending regulation in a 4-4 tie.
After regulation the shots stood 35-32 for the Abbies.
The initial 10-minute overtime period opened with both teams applying equal pressure, both teams registering 8 shots each before time expired.
The second overtime, a full 20 minute period saw the two best chances for either team with Lennoxville applying tight pressure in the Charlottetown end.
Charlottetown forward Steve Yetman slid across the crease to make a spectacular save after Roberts was caught out of position trying to cover a scrambling puck.
It would hardly matter less than five minutes later after a neutral zone turnover by the Abbies created a two-on-one that saw Pelletier score the winner on a centering pass from defenseman Alexandre Gaudreau, silencing the home crowd for good.
Charlottetown’s next game is tomorrow against the Pacific champions Camrose Kodiaks while the Cougars get a day off before facing the Humboldt Broncos on Monday.