Saturday, December 24, 2011

AMHL Wednesday Championship: For the Francophone (or not)

"Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach,” said Montreal Canadiens Owner Geoff Molson.

His quote, which appeared at CBC, comes two days before the (AMHL) Canadiens face the Rangers in the AMHL Wednesday Championship.

The AMHL Canadiens, sans un entraînement, could use a francophone to guide his players to victory and then chat with reporters for French language media outlets like La Presse or Le Devoir.

Jacques Martin? Non. Gilbert Cote? Impossible. Cote, a francophone Bruins fan who was not available for comment, despises le blue blanc et rouge. But J. Pierre “Puckbite” Plouffe in Montreal, who was not aware of the coaching vacancy, later said that he would have risen to the challenge.

Nonetheless, after one period, the Habs and Rangers are tied at one goal apiece.

In the second period and the Rangers skating right to left across your AMHL app, Ranger forward and AMHL perennial points leader Tim Donahue skates toward Hab goalie Tyler Le Holt’s doorstep. Ding dong. The proverbial door opens a crack, so Donahue shoots—just as Le Holt slams the door. Mon dieu, what a save, a la Carey Le Price.

Back the other way, the Canadiens’ top two scorers, Rob Le Witty and Marc Le Finneran flank the lone Ranger defender. Le Finneran sells the pass to Le Witty—and then shoots on net. Netminder Tyler Boudreau makes a bread-basket save.

With less than a half-dozen minutes remaining in la deuxième période, Boudreau makes another save. The rebound goes to Canadien Michel Le DeLeo, stationed in the slot, and he then snaps a shot past the goaler to lift Les Habitents to a 2–1 lead.

“Ole, Ole,” the Habs’ fans chant, most of whom don’t care if their coach speaks French or not. Winning is what they want.

Skating left to right to start the third period, the Rangers attack. Forward Mike Statkus, who’s contemplating bringing his band, White Collar Criminals, on a three-bar tour in Montreal, slaps a shot from the top of the right circle. Kick save by Le Holt, who steers the puck to his right.

Midway through the third, and the Rangers pushing to tie the game, Le Holt is caught out of his crease. A Ranger lifts a shot past Le Holt—but Le DeLeo bats the biscuit off course. C’est magnifique, Michel!

A minute later, Le Witty, his ragged green breezers flapping in his wake, cuts across the crease. Boudreau braces himself, not wanting to surrender the short side or leave any holes that the ever-wiley Le Witty would exploit. The netminder holds his ground and averts the crisis.

Then Mike Gardner, the Ranger defenseman who hasn’t scored a goal (eight helpers, though) all season, breaks out the Bobby Orr-like moves. He circumnavigates three defenders to reach the slot and fires—wide left.

Teammate Howard “Ho Ho” Hobbs, out with what he will later call a “lower body injury” watches the action from behind the glass to Le Holt’s right, where Le Koffey Cup awaits the outcome. Will the Habs hold on for another seven minutes?

Le Witty controls the puck some 150 feet way. No one near him.

Échappée or breakaway, no matter the preferred language, fans gathered at Le Centre Bell watch the Jumbotron as Le Witty strides toward Boudreau. Root for the one with the French surname or he who is about to shoot la rondelle?

Le Witty scores, and the crowd goes gaga. “Ole, Ole,” they sing again.

“Time out, White,” referee Pierre Bagley says. “Deux, Deux, Un,” he says through a translator, and then resets the clock to 2:21.

A little more than a minute later and the Rangers sans goalie, the Blueshirts score. 2–3.

Will the Habs choke?

Le Witty, now a fan favourite from Laval to Longueuil, scores an empty-netter, much to Gilbert Cote’s chagrin.
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