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Ryan McCracken photo
Ryan McCracken photo
Jalel Abougouche celebrates after scoring a goal in the St. Paul Canadiens 4-1 victory over the Vegreville Rangers on Saturday. Abougouche currently leads the Canadiens in scoring with 15 points.
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Canadiens pick up third win of the season

Nov 05, 2013 12:30 pm | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

The St. Paul Canadiens picked up a 4-1 victory over the Vegreville Rangers on Saturday at the Clancy Richard Arena.

The victory marks the Canadiens’ third win on the season, matching the team’s win total through all of last season in only eight games played this year.

“We’re starting to get healthy again. We were banged up for a while, in this game there are so many ups and downs,” said Canadiens Head Coach Joe Young. “It comes down to hard work, and if you’re going to put that in, you’re going to get rewarded with good things.”

Two of the three Canadiens victories so far this season have been celebrated on home ice, while one was picked up in Saddle Lake. This has made things especially difficult for the Canadiens of late, as Saturday was their first return to the Clancy Richard Arena since Oct. 5.

“We haven’t been at home in what seems like forever,” said Young. “It’s nice to see that the guys are comfortable here and they’re putting in good efforts, we’re getting good bounces at home right now. We’re excited to be here. It’s been a while and we just kind of ride off that energy that we were feeling before the game.”

Tanner Hellquist opened the scoring for the Canadiens on Saturday with a power play goal from Jordyn Wozniak. Tanner Cunningham later extended the Habs lead to two, firing home a pass from Jalel Abougouche.

“It feels good, we just went full bore and just got right down to it, threw a couple of hits and got in there,” said Cunningham. “We did good tonight.”

After the second period solved nothing, Abougouche extended the Habs lead to three goals early in the third.

In total, Abougouche put up a goal and two assists in Saturday’s victory, putting him at seven goals and 15 points on the season, a team high. Abougouche currently ranks ninth in the league in scoring, and Young said that he is pleased to see one of his top forwards making the best of opportunities and reaching his potential.

“I knew coming into the year, after the year he had last year as a rookie, that he was going to be a very dominant player. The legs don’t stop moving until he gets to the bench, and that’s all you can ask out of a player,” said Young. “He’s a big part of our team and he definitely will be for the rest of the season, and he’s got a few more years here so that’s exciting as well.”

Abougouche said that he used the offseason to enhance his offensive skills in the hope of bringing a higher quality of game to the ice for St. Paul this season.

“I just worked on my shot and skating a bit, and I played a lot of inline hockey with (Tyler) Bunce, so there was a lot of stick handling there,” said Abougouche, adding that the mentality is much more positive in the locker room this season. “We’re showing the effort here, and it’s feeling way better than last year, that’s for sure.”

As the third period passed the 10-minute mark, the Rangers managed to get on the board with a puck the just managed to squeak past Canadiens goaltender Jared Lafond.

With seven minutes remaining in the third period, a hard shot from a Rangers attacker caught Lafond awkwardly in the mid-section, and left him vomiting in the goal crease. While he was clearly shaken up by the play, Lafond remained in the net, and laughed off the incident following the victory.

“I don’t know, I was just working hard and a puck caught me up high,” he said. “That was a first.”

Pierre Beaudoin re-established a three-goal lead for the Canadiens with five minutes left in the game, but the Rangers continued to push back.

With just over three minutes left in regulation, the Canadiens took a tripping call and a bench minor, leaving them on a two-man disadvantage for a full two minutes. Despite the offensive pressure from Vegreville, Lafond and the Canadiens shut down the Rangers power play.

“Lately we’ve been giving up a few here and there, but tonight we tried to get a little more aggressive,” Young said of the Canadiens penalty killing effort.

Games across the league were postponed on Sunday due to weather conditions, which saw the Canadiens game against the Wainwright Bisons and the Saddle Lake Warriors game against the Vermilion Tigers canceled until further notice.

The Canadiens will return to the Clancy Richard Arena this Saturday evening to host the Cold Lake Ice at 7:30 p.m.

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