The 2012-13 Moncton Wildcats of the EA Sports Quebec Junior Hockey League (TTS Version) were a team of destiny. Unfortunately, the destiny we speak of is a .500 record of mediocrity. This was followed by a 7 game playoff elimination in which at one point they were actually leading 3 games to 1. The collapse of the last 3 games was an absolute capture of really what went wrong all season. A team that constantly missed the net, could not figure out what kind of defensive strategy it should employ, and of course the good ol fashion shaky goaltending when they needed it most.
The team was banking on a young rookie from Anaheim by the name of Tobias Stevens to carry them. Looking at the tall lanky Socal goalie, one sees obvious potential but no polish. The Wildcats management felt it could mold the goaltender in the fashion of an aggressive Gerry Cheevers type goaltender who took risks but could still finish. Coach Peter Belgoody Jr. affectionately known as “The Mayor”, felt so good about the rookie netminder going into the season he named him the starter. Looking back, Stevens was over aggressive at times, and too passive at others. He fell into a late season slump that was so bad, he was replaced as the starter by Etienne Marcoux who was brought in from midseason trade. Stevens reclaimed his hand when Marcoux faltered in the playoffs and he played much better. He had 2 spectacular shutouts and almost led the Cats to victory. Though games 5 and 6 were not his fault the Wildcats could not win the last game, and Stevens gave up 3 goals in the opening frame of game 7 against Victoriaville. The Cats would not recover.
In this article we will take a look at the highs and lows for the Wildcats and what prevented them from advancing deep into the QMJHL playoffs. We will also take a look at the strengths and the weaknesses of the team and the individual players.
Scoring was a huge problem for a team in a league that is known for scoring. The Wildcats just could not put the puck in the net. They netted 166 GF during the entire campaign which was 3rd to last in the league. Attack was not a problem, but too many times they just plain missed the net. Jack Connolly was a ringer brought in early in the season to help the offense. He was a free agent that technically is too old to play in the league being 23, but fortunately EA Sports missed this and Connolly was able to be signed. He ended up leading the Wildcats in scoring with 39 points in 54 games. The reason he was specifically brought in was due to an early injury to Allaine Saulnier. Saulnier was supposed to lead the team and most of the league along with his twin brother Alex. Unfortunately, Allaine separated his shoulder 3 games in and never could gain any consistency for the season. Brother Alex too, was hampered by injuries and the local press labeled both brothers as “soft”. It was a label that they fought all year, and moving into next year will continue to fight until they prove otherwise.
Defensively, The Wildcats played up and down. They were bolstered mid season with the arrival of Jean-Francois Grenier C. who played very well for them down the stretch, and led them in plus/minus. One thing the Wildcats did very well was hit very hard. This seemed to get better as the season went on as both Grenier C, and Sam Roussy led the Cats, banging away every chance they had. The problem with the D and especially with Roussy was the giveaways. Roussy led the league in giveaways and ended up with a -13 because of he was too sloppy with the puck. Too many times the Wildcats found themselves down early due to inept puck control. Because of their lack of scoring, when plays like this did happen they could not recover.
If any player could have been labeled “Mr. Clutch” in the Moncton season it would have to be right winger Ryan Penny. Ryan fought through a concussion that kept him out for over a month, and still managed to lead the Cats in game winning goals. He seemed to be there when it mattered late in games all season long getting off good shots. The highlight of the season for Penny would have to be twice scoring game winners against top team Rimouski Oceanic. (Oceanic went on to win the QMJHL and The Memorial Cup) After the season, Wildcat fans must feel a bit cheated as it appeared as if Ryan’s heroics might carry them further than they did. Still Penny can hang his head high, he was one of the foundations of this team.
A huge part of Moncton’s mediocre play was the afore mentioned, constant missing of the net. Even when they did hit the net their heaviest shooters seemed to have the lowest shooting percentage. The main offender happened to be Wildcats Captain Patrick Delisle-Houde. He will need to seriously look in the mirror and work on being a bit more accurate in the off season. Coach Belgoody Jr. gave him the “C” but Delisle-Houde did not carry the letter well in the opinion of this writer. He was just too quiet in stretches of the season, and many of his shots were of the garden variety.
When you lead the league in giveaways it can never be a good thing. We wrote about this earlier, but this is a key point to the season for the Cats. If your top banger loses the puck more than he levels hits, your team is not going to go far. In this case the Moncton team didn’t.
Tobias Stevens was supposed to be a bright, tall, shining sun in net this year for the Cats. In Moncton we heard many fans talk about just this. They had an agile, aggressive youngster in net who would be backstopping them to freedon. Eh, not so much. He will need to seriously improve his consistency if he wants to maintain any hope of a career moving forward.
Stevens recorded the worst save percentage by far in the QMJHL in the 2012-13 season. His biggest weakness? Teams used his aggressive play against him. Too many times he kept play alive trying to clear a puck when a freeze was needed. Now, true his team was weak on the faceoff, but trying to do too much lead too many times to doing too little.
Stevens in the playoffs actually started as a backup to Marcoux who simply outplayed him down the stretch. Many who are close to the Moncton team thought that Stevens season was done, and for a short while it looked like he may even ride the third sting and sit in the press box. Once the playoffs started however it was Marcoux who faltered, and Stevens came in proving with a 1.69 GAA that he may just be the man for the job. Time will tell as the jury is definitely still out.
Looking back after elimination this was a team that went through an awful lot of transition and just did not have the mental toughness to push on. The roster looked nothing like it did to begin the season, and Coach Belgoody Jr. just could not push the right buttons. He is a good coach, and will get another shot with Moncton or somewhere else, but there is just a feeling that their should have been more.
This Post is based on a team played in a video game. These are events that happened within the context of a video game and within the realm of a fictional world. Nothing written here should be taken as a actual real world event, except within the said video game.