Les Cougars de Lennoxville made the transition from the defunct Quebec college league extremely smooth with a championship inaugural season in la Ligue de Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec.
Centre Pierre-Luc Gosselin contributed seven goals and 10 points as Lennoxville swept College Francais de Longueuil in the best-of-seven league final to advance to the Fred Page Cup championship April 23-27 in Cornwall, Ont.
“He played very well for us,” said Lennoxville head coach Stephan Lebeau. “He is our captain and was our leader throughout the season.
“Pierre-Luc leads by example. It showed on the ice, with his work ethic and determination.”
Gosselin, 19, led league playoff scorers with 12 goals and was second among league playoff scorers with 25 points in 16 games. He leads Lennoxville with 39 goals and 94 points in 66 games overall.
The 5-foot-9, 173-pound Gosselin tied for 10th in the league with 69 points, including 52 assists, in 50 regular-season games. He was voted the league’s playoff most valuable player.
Lennoxville will compete against the Central Junior Hockey League champion Nepean, Ont., Raiders, the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League champion Charlottetown, P. E. I., Abbies and the Cornwall Colts of the CJHL for the Fred Page Cup.
“We’re going to be ready for that,” said Lebeau. “We’re very serious.”
Lennoxville finished first in the Sherwood Division, and overall, with a 41-5-2 record and two overtime losses during the regular schedule. A 12-4 playoff run improved les Cougars to 53-9-2 and two overtime losses in 66 games overall.
“We have a lot of depth everywhere,” said Lebeau, a former Montreal Canadiens’ centre and the American Hockey League’s most valuable player as a 20-year-old rookie in 1988-89.
“We have four solid lines and seven good defencemen. It can be a different line leading us every night.”
Rookie goalie Jason Smith, 17, led the league with a 2.29 goals against average, .920 saves percentage, three shutouts and a 22-4-1 won-lost-tied record in 1,622 minutes during the regular season.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Smith led league playoff goalies with a 2.52 goals against average and 11-3 won-lost record in 810 minutes. He has a 2.37 goals against average, 33-7-1 won-lost-tied record and four shutouts in 2,432 minutes overall.
“He had a great season,” said Lebeau. “He was a big surprise.”
Smith’s only bumps came when Lennoxville also struggled, in a best-of-seven semi-final against les Maroons de Lachine.
“He had a little trouble against Lachine,” said Lebeau, stressing that Lennoxville started the playoffs with a so-so performance against les Eperviers de Contrecoeur.
“We were in a battle with Lachine. We woke up in the final.” Veteran centre Carl Gagnon, 20, is Lennoxville’s second leading scorer. He has 62 assists and 89 points in 65 games overall.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Gagnon was fourth in the league with 52 assists and was eighth in the league with 74 points in 49 regular-season games.
Lennxoville left winger Julien Cardinal, 20, tied for eighth among league playoff scorers with 17 points, including 10 assists, in 16 games. Cougars’ centre Alexandre Carignan, 18, was 10th among league playoff scorers with 16 points, including 11 assists, in 16 games.
Lebeau, 35, has done a superb job in his coaching debut and enjoys the environment at le College Regional Champlain, where the players must combine academics and hockey.
“I’m proud of our program,” he said. “I don’t think you see a group like this too often.
“The players are well behaved and good students.”
Lebeau had 70 goals and 134 points in 78 regular-season games when he was the AHL scoring champion, outstanding rookie and MVP. He totalled 118 goals and 277 points in 373 games in the National Hockey League, including 31 goals and 80 points in 71 games with Montreal in 1992-93.
He knows that Lennoxville’s commitment will be crucial when the Fred Page Cup begins in a familiar building in Cornwall.
The Fred Page Cup champion will qualify for the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship May 3-11 in Charlottetown. The tournament finalist will advance if Charlottetown wins the Fred Page Cup.
Please check the CJAHL web site at www.cjahl.com for all your Canadian junior A information