The 2015-16 season has been a rollercoaster for the Lions du Lac St-Louis.
There really is no other way to explain how a team seeded 11th for the Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec playoffs will play for a national championship
at the 2016 TELUS Cup.
“We definitely lived through some highs and some lows early on before the boys started figuring it out a little bit,” says Lac St-Louis head coach Jon
Goyens. “It was really after Christmas that we focused on establishing the mindset that would make us successful.”
That mindset needed to be instilled, and fast. The Lions opened the regular season by suffering only a single regulation loss in their opening 10 games,
but things took a nasty turn after that; Lac St-Louis won only four of its next 20 games, including a seven-game losing streak through October.
“We started off the first month of the year real hot. But in our league teams kind of regroup quickly and things can turn around pretty fast,” says Goyens.
“So with 14 games remaining, we challenged our players to see it as like playing in two best-of-seven series. We wanted to start that playoff mentality
because we don’t believe in just flipping the switch when we get there.”
Lac St-Louis went on to win eight of its final 14 games – two seven-game series wins.
A 22-21-3 record left the Lions in the bottom half of the LHMAAAQ, but the underdog role seemed to suit Lac St-Louis perfectly.
It first met St-Eustache, an older team with a number of QMJHL draftees. “It was physical, nasty and high-paced but we battled through and had some unsung
heroes in certain situations,” Goyens says of the match-up. “We were able to close out that series three games to one.”
The quarter-finals brought a match-up with the LHMAAAQ’s regular season champions, the Élites de Jonquière. Despite finishing 26 points behind the Élites,
Lac St-Louis got a split of the first two games in Jonquière before closing out the series with two home-ice wins.
“I think our players came to the realization that they could do something special by knocking off the top team,” Goyens says. “From there we got a great
jolt and big jump in confidence and enthusiasm from the boys. We were ready to take the second-overall team in the third round … and we swept them.”
That’s not a misquote – the Lions’ Cinderella run continued with a semifinal sweep of the Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin, outscoring the league’s top
offence 19-5 in the process.
The LHMAAQ final pitted the Lions against another team wearing the ‘underdog’ label – the fifth-seeded Cantonniers de Magog.
The teams split the first two games in Magog before Lac St-Louis took control with victories at home in Games 3 and 4 (the Lions were 7-1 as the host in
the postseason, winning their last seven).
After the Cantonniers put the celebration on hold with a Game 5 win, Mathias Laferriere was the overtime hero in Game 6, giving the Lions their second
LHMAAAQ championship in six years, and sending them to Canada’s National Midget Championship for the eighth time.
Lac St-Louis will be looking to keep its medal streak alive at the national championship; it has finished on the podium in each of its first seven trips,
including national titles in 1981, 1985 and 1992.
For Goyens, no group of players is as ready to win as his.
“I’ve learned that you really need to focus on the process and playing your style of hockey,” he says. “All our preparation is literally for that first
period of the first game on Monday and then we’ll move on from there. But as long as we can focus on the process aspect, that allows us to be more
resilient, more relentless and it allows us to manage the intensity and magnitude of this once-of-a-lifetime opportunity.”
HOW LAC ST-LOUIS GOT TO QUISPAMSIS
Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec
Preliminary round: defeated St-Eustache 3-1 (4-3 OT, 3-2, 0-4, 4-3 OT)
Quarter-final: defeated Jonquière 3-1 (3-1, 1-2, 6-3, 5-3)
Semifinal: defeated Collège Esther-Blondin 3-0 (11-3, 6-1, 2-1)
LHMAAAQ championship: defeated Magog 4-2 (4-3, 1-2, 5-2, 3-2, 2-5, 2-1 OT)
Record: 22-21-3 (11th in LHMAAAQ)
Goals For: 146 (10th in LHMAAAQ)
Goals Against: 161 (T-11th in LHMAAAQ)
Longest Winning Streak: 4 (Sep. 4-12)
Top 3 Scorers:
Adam Capannelli – 21G 40A 61P (4th in LHMAAAQ)
Gabriel Fortier – 18G 29A 47P (16th in LHMAAAQ)
Azzaro Tinling – 24G 14A 38P (39th in LHMAAAQ)
Goals For: 62
Goals Against: 41
Top 3 Scorers:
Adam Capannelli – 14G 14A 28P
Mathias Laferriere – 11G 14A 25P
Gabriel Fortier – 7G 10A 17P
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2011 – Lac St-Louis Lions | bronze medal | 4-3-0 | 30GF 20GA
1992 – Lac St-Louis Lions | gold medal | 4-1-1 | 27GF 8GA
1991 – Lac St-Louis Lions | bronze medal | 6-1-0 | 24GF 17GA
1985 – Lac St-Louis Lions | gold medal | 6-1-0 | 38GF 21GA
1984 – Lac St-Louis Lions | bronze medal | 4-0-1 | 27GF 17GA
1981 – Lac St-Louis Lions | gold medal | 6-1-1 | 47GF 21GA
1977 – Lac St-Louis Lions | silver medal | 6-1-0 | 42GF 17GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
puck-moving defenceman … natural offensive abilities … good poise with the puck … workhorse who loves to play … plays in all situations … will grow into
has a motor that doesn’t quit … tireless forechecker … plays bigger than his size … very good leadership skills … solid in all three zones … good offensive
versatile forward … uses speed to create space … excellent skater … plays the point on the PP … combines skill and grit … very high hockey IQ … very good
QMJHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Adam Capannelli – Baie-Comeau 2015 (3rd round, 38th overall)
Matthew Pietroniro – Québec 2015 (8th round, 137th overall)
Silvio Silvestre – Québec 2014 (8th round, 141st overall)
James Orr – Shawinigan 2015 (8th round, 144th overall)