Jean-Francois Houle and Mario Duhamel could agree that it’s time both teams return to the basics when the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada host the Drummondville Voltigeurs on Sportsnet.
Houle, the coach of the Armada, saw his team play an uncharacteristic run-and-gun style in Drummondville on Sunday, a 7-6 overtime win for the home team. Their previous two meetings were determined by 2-1 and 6-3 scores, both wins by the Armada.
"There was a lot of goals scored, a lot of mistakes on both teams with turnovers that created goals — not the type of games that coaches like," Houle said of Sunday’s game. "I’m sure we’ll be prepared for Wednesday."
"It was a crazy game," said Duhamel, head coach of the Voltigeurs. "We were expecting a tight game like we always have against the Armada."
Blainville-Boisbriand will be without its captain, and Canadian world junior hopeful Xavier Ouellet. The Detroit Red Wings’ prospect missed the last two games with a low ankle sprain and will begin skating by himself on Wednesday.
"He needs a couple more days to stay off his ankle," Houle noted.
Ouellet’s absence is a good sign for the Voltigeurs, who noticed there was more room in front of the Armada net without their captain defending. There won’t be any love lost either way considering the heated rivalry between two teams residing close to each other.
"It’s been pretty much intense since they arrived in the league last year and right off the bat we saw that was a good rivalry between both teams," Duhamel explained. "It’s always a war for the puck."
Web note — the Armada will reportedly sign Winnipeg Jets prospect Yasin Cisse on Wednesday. He left Boston University on Tuesday.
The last time the Armada were on Friday Night Hockey, they were playing without American world junior hopeful Stefan Matteau Jr. The son of former NHLer and assistant coach of the Armada, Stephane Matteau, Stefan was suspended by the league for a hit, and had another game tacked on by the team to further discipline their player.
"He’s responded very well, he’s been very disciplined and been getting quite a bit of points as well so we’re really happy with his progress," Houle said. "We want him to play like a power-forward, be aggressive, but also produce and that’s what he’s been doing. He’s been scoring big goals for us and we hope he keeps going that way."
The Voltigeurs are receiving healthy contributions from former first-overall pick Olivier Archambault. The Montreal Canadiens’ prospect is looking for a contract from the big club as he slightly redefines his game in Drummondville.
"He’s a guy that has to skate and has to move his feet all the time," Duhamel said. "He has good hands when he’s moving his feet and when he’s taking shots to the net. He’s really strong with good balance on his feet."
He may be short in stature, but Nikolas Brouillard brings plenty of flare and an offensive dynamic to the Voltigeurs’ attack. The sophomore defenceman acquitted himself well in Game 1 of the Subway Super Series and his head coach knows he will be a showstopper.
"He’s a guy who moves the puck very well, who sees his options very quickly and he’s the type of guy, when he’s moving the puck well to the forwards and joining the rush, he’s really a threat," Duhamel said. "He’s fun to watch because he’s not the biggest guy, but he’s smooth on the ice and he’s well-positioned offensively. He’s working a lot on his defence and when he’s on his game, he plays really well on both sides of the puck."
Marc-Olivier Roy, ranked 18th among QMJHL skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting, picked up four assists in the Armada’s loss to the Voltigeurs on Sunday. Houle likes the chemistry he sees between Roy and veteran forward Cedric Paquette.
"Both together make a pretty good one-two punch for us and they’re just both getting a lot of points right now, connecting really well," said Houle. "(Roy) has been really good. He’s been skating well, he’s really using his speed to his advantage and he’s a good playmaker."
The Armada are dipping into the well for their depth between the pipes as starter Etienne Marcoux will miss three-to-four weeks with a shoulder injury. Storm Phaneuf, meanwhile, gives the Armada another reliable goaltender who will be looking to rebound from Sunday’s seven goals allowed against Drummondville.
"He’s a resilient kid," his coach said. "Sometimes in a season, you have games that don’t go your way, but all-in-all he’s been really good for us."
The Voltigeurs are led by two young, rising goaltenders in Louis-Philip Guindon and Domenic Graham. Both were ranked among the top six goaltending prospects from the QMJHL for the NHL draft by Central Scouting, though it will be Guindon between the pipes on Wednesday.
"They’re two competitors," Duhamel described his tandem. "Totally different mindsets, two different styles of goalies, but two guys who like to compete and like to get in the net and receive some shots and do the job for the team. What we like is the progression of L.P. Guindon, who just in his first season in the league is doing very well."
Matteau Jr. and Ouellet were each named to the American and Canadian world junior preliminary rosters this week. First-year defenceman Christian Marti could also receive consideration in representing the Swiss while forward Nikita Jevpalovs should represent Latvia. Ouellet’s place on the team may depend on how quickly he can return from injury, but his versatility is something his coach thinks will be a positive for him.
"He’s very, very strong in his own zone," Houle said. "He’s not just offensive or defensive, he’s an all-around player — he can do both. I think that’s a great asset to have if he’s asked to play an offensive role, he can do that. If he’s asked to play a defensive role, he can do that. He’s very versatile."
The Voltigeurs could be represented by newcomer Lukas Balmelli on the Swiss team while head coach Duhamel will serve as an assistant on Steve Spott’s Canadian coaching staff.
The Armada are just four points back of the Halifax Mooseheads for the league lead in points, and lead the Voltigeurs by 12 points in the Telus West Division standings. Both teams are hot with Blainville-Boisbriand winning eight of their last 10 games while the Voltigeurs won seven of their last 10.
As far as Duhamel is concerned, minding the gap between them and the Armada is less important than ensuring his team is developing and improving each game.
"It’s more about us working hard and developing our team to be a better team, to react well in adversity," he said. "We know that when we’re working hard and we play the way we can play as a team, we like what we see and we know that we can bring our team to another level."