Sherbrooke, Que. – Justin Blanchette made 45 saves for the Cataractes but even that was not enough, as Nathael Roy’s go-ahead goal with 4:28 remaining propelled the Phoenix to a 4-1 victory over Shawinigan, to improve their record to 32-21-1-1.
Once again, the Phoenix heavily out shot their opponent but just barely squeezed by for the two points. They stuck to their game plan however and were eventually rewarded with the winning goal as the clock ticked down to its final minutes in the third. Despite Shawinigan’s weak record on the road (now 3-22-0-3), the Birds were prepared for a team that was hard working and determined to crash the party in front of 2855 fans at the Palais des Sports on Friday night.
“I think we played a very good game. We spoke before the game about how Shawinigan was a determined team that works very hard,” said Stephane Julien. “In the first period we had a few chances to score where we could have made it 2-0 or 3-0. In the second we shot ourselves in the foot, it was much closer, but in the third I liked the way we played in the offensive zone. There were a lot of give and go’s, we brought a lot of pucks to the net and crashed the net. Their goalie, Blanchette, played an excellent game with almost 50 shots on goal.”
Olivier Crête-Belzile, who will face his brother on Sunday against the Screaming Eagles, opened the scoring with a shot from the point that found its way through a crowd and past Blanchette. The Phoenix had total control in the first period, giving up only a single shot to the Cats while amassing 13 of their own.
The determined and hard-working team that Julien mentioned came alive in the middle frame. Shawinigan got their feet moving and finally put pucks on net. Only one found its way to the back of the net however, off the stick of Jérémy Martin, who beat Thommy Monette from the faceoff circle.
Sherbrooke reset during the intermission and regained control of the game in the final stanza as they peppered the Shawinigan net with 22 shots. The team was able to breath a real sigh of relief when they saw Nathael Roy capitalize on a rebound to give his team the 2-1 advantage.
Perhaps the highlight of today’s game was the Phoenix’s defensive play after giving up a combined 13 goals in their two games prior to Friday’s matchup.
“Defensively, when we play well it limits the other team’s scoring opportunities and helps our goalie. But also, when we play well defensively, it brings more offence, so a strong defensive game is a recipe for success,” said Roy.
Alex-Olivier Voyer and Benjamin Tardif added empty goals shorthanded to make it a 4-1 final.
Cape-Breton visits the Palais des Sports on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. The Phoenix look for revenge against the Screaming Eagles after losing 5-1 to them just a couple of weeks ago.
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by Evan Milner