Canadiens improve to 3-2 on home ice with win over Wheat Kings
The St. Paul Canadiens returned to the Clancy Richard Arena on Saturday after nearly a month on the road, and delivered an exciting, 4-3 overtime victory over the Killam Wheat Kings.
The Habs have played 11 of 16 games on the road this season, and Canadiens Head Coach Joe Young said the team is happy to have returned to home ice, where they now have a winning record, at 3-2.
“For the amount of home games that we’ve played, we have a good record at home. We’ve played well here and it’s nice to see that any team that comes in here is going to be in for a battle,” he said.
“Like I said before, it’s just so monotonous always on the road. It’s nice to be back in our familiar surroundings and our room and on our home ice, and right now guys are delivering when we’re at home. It’s great, and it’s something that we want to keep going in the second half here.”
Pierre Beaudoin gave the Habs an early lead just less than three minutes into the game, with assists from Dylon Loughran and Tanner Hellquist. Beaudoin fired a shot through traffic that may have deflected off another player before beating Wheat Kings goaltender Nick Galenzoski.
St. Paul maintained solid offensive pressure, but with Habs defenceman Curtis Stanley in the box for holding, the Wheat Kings crept back into the game, and Gary Horte evened things up on the power play.
After a scoreless second period saw the Canadiens gather back some momentum, they were suddenly on their heels again, as Wheat Kings forward Jordan Sand managed to beat Habs netminder Evan Joly to give his team a 2-1 lead.
While the Wheat Kings goal silenced the building and put the Habs behind for the first time in the game, it only lasted 51 seconds.
Affiliate player Cody Paziuk made an impact in his first game, helping answer right back against Killam's marker. After carrying the puck into the offensive zone on the odd-man rush, Paziuk fed the puck to an open Rylan Buffalo, who deposited the puck for his first goal of the season.
“It was huge. You don’t expect Cody Paziuk, an AP player, and Buffalo to be in on such an important goal like that,” said Young. “We’re fortunate that I guess Buff’ does have a set of mitts when he gets an opportunity. It was a nice goal on both of their behalves.”
Buffalo said that it “felt pretty great” to get the first goal off his back, and made a point of addressing the abilities of Paziuk in his first game with the Canadiens.
“His first game, he gets his first point, and of course it helped me out. I’m really happy for the kid and I hope I see him out there some more,” said Buffalo.
The Habs continued dominating Killam offensively, particularly in the shot category, but Galenzoski had a strong game between the posts for Killam to keep things close.
At the halfway point of the third period, Killam forward Shelby Badry was given a two minute penalty for delivering a check to the head, and the Canadiens power play came alive.
After some strong team puck movement, Matthew Boulianne put the Habs back in front on the power play, with assists from Jalel Abougouche and Tyler Bunce.
Up 3-2, the Canadiens maintained offensive pressure into the dying minutes of the game, but with Killam's net empty and 3.5 seconds remaining in regulation, the Wheat Kings managed to sneak one past Joly and force overtime.
After five minutes of scoreless four-on-four play, the Wheat Kings were penalized for hooking, bringing life to the St. Paul crowd, and giving the Canadiens a golden opportunity to close out the game on a four-on-three power play.
It didn't take long for Habs leading scorer Abougouche to finish off a beautiful feed from captain Jordyn Wozniak, putting and end to a thrilling match up and clearing the Habs bench in celebration.
“We’re not playing 20 minute or 30 minute games. We’re playing that full 60 minutes, every shift going hard,” said Abougouche. “I think everyone just wants that freakin’ win now. It’s not like last year where once they score two or three goals everyone gives up. This year everyone wants it. We won’t give up.”
Young added that the shift in the Canadiens has been “an absolutely dramatic change” from last season, and pointed to the Wheat Kings’ game-tying goal with three seconds left in regulation as evidence of the team’s transformation.
“That goal with three seconds left, first of all we wouldn’t have been in that situation last year, but fortunately the guys stayed with it,” Young said of the Canadiens ability to shake off the late goal and clinch an overtime victory. “I guess good things are happening to us in overtime right now.”