Against all odds, the Valleyfield Braves pushed their opponents to the limit during their playoff series against the Saint-Jérôme Panthères in the quarter-final round of the Quebec Junior AAA League.
The two teams lined up for the traditional handshake following the victory of the Saint-Jérôme Panthères over the Valleyfield Braves (7-4) in the deciding game of the playoffs. (Photo Denis Bourbonnais)
Faced with a team that accumulated 34 more points during the regular season, the team from Valleyfield once again showed resilience in the 7th game played on Sunday at the Aréna régional Rivière-du-Nord by overcoming a 4-1 deficit to tie the game in the 6th minute of the 3rd period. Penalties given to Les Braves then led to 3 goals for the Panthères, the last of which was an empty net, to allow the team from St-Jérôme to celebrate this decisive game with a score of 7-4.
The 5th goal of the playoffs from center Alexis Bourboin brought Les Braves back to a 4-2 spread at the end of the 2nd period. Zachary Séguin, who returned to the game following a 3-game suspension, narrowed the margin to just one goal thanks to his 9th in 4 games 48 seconds into the 3rd period. Then a powerful shot by Lukas Châtelain (1st ) in a power play beat goaltender Vincent Lajoie to even the odds (4-4) at 6:15.
A very questionable decision from the official then led to the winning goal by Tristan Gourdeau (2nd) who beat Jasmin Simon with a “wrap around” during a power play at 10:34. Defenceman Mathis Meilleur was in the penalty box for cross-checking, but he had clearly been held back by the Panthères player like a football tackle and the referee only penalized the retaliation.
“It’s part of the playoff experience. Even if your opponent deserves a penalty, you must hold back and bite your “mouth piece”. Young people will learn from these situations,” said head coach David Rochon.
Go out on a high note
Les Braves “coach” praised his players for dealing with adversity. “All the guys can walk out of the arena with their head held high. At least, I think so because I am proud of each and everyone of them,” he said.
David Rochon believes that his protégés gave their all and fought to the end. “Five weeks ago, on a Monday night in Gatineau, we were 10th in the standings and we had to win to make the playoffs. Who would have thought that we could have a chance to beat the Panthères in the playoffs,” said coach.
“After a tough mid-season, we came together and the guys formed a team. What they have achieved in this playoff series is remarkable. Personally, I have never seen a team recover from a 12-2 loss to win the next two games,” said David Rochon.
Alex Larocque (2nd ), who registered the first goal for Les Braves at 3:22 of the initial period, must step aside like the 4 other 20-year-old players who are completing their last year in junior, Maxime Lavoie, Lukas Châtelain, Michael Stegmann and Jérémy Bisson.
Les Braves can be proud of having recreated playoff fever at Salaberry Arena and the future is promising for the Valleyfield team.
Tristan Gourdeau scored twice, including the winning goal for the Saint-Jérôme Panthères. (Photo Denis Bourbonnais)