Smoke and Mirrors: The 2019-2020 Moncton Wildcats Home Opener

When the smoke finally cleared, literally in the Avenir Centre Wildcat fans finally had something to cheer about. The Moncton Wildcats relied heavily on and were led by their veteran star Jakob Pelletier and Alexander Khovanov.

After an inspired start by the Wildcats in front of a packed Avenir Centre the young upstart Acadie Bathurst Titan took over the game and were up two goals heading into the third period.

How did they do it? Hard work, that’s it, hard work.

They were first to pucks, won all the 50/50 puck battles in all three zones.

All it took was hard work.

So how can you get out worked in your home opener?

That’s one I can’t answer.

The Titan simply dominated the Cats in every department in the 2nd period.

Could the Titan hold on to the dreaded two goal lead on the road in Mario Durocher’s 1000th game behind the bench in the QMJHL, the answer to that question was inevitably no!

The Moncton Wildcats looked flat and defeated after 40 mins, they looked like a team that needed a lift a spark, they needed someone to lead the charge.

10 years ago it would have been a enforcer or energy player to kick start the comeback. In 2019 it took one player and one player alone Jakob Pelletier.

Pelletier has carried the franchise before and some would say has carried it ever since he arrived in the Hub.

The newly appointed Wildcat captain put his team on his back to start the 3rd.

Photo credit Daniel St Louis

Not even a minute into the 3rd Jakob Pelletier scored and then followed that up with another goal to tie it. The Calgary Flames prospect was no question the best player on the ice in the 3rd period, and if it wasn’t for an amazing 5 pt night by Anderson MacDonald one could say he was the best player from both teams.

So what went wrong with the rebuilding Titan?

Even after giving up the tying goal the Titan responded and essentially were in a position to pull victory after some poor defensive breakdowns by the Cats, but a costly turnover at their own blue line late in the game sealed the Titan’s fate, much like the Gatorade container behind the Titan bench after Durocher kicked it.

The Titan like any young team forgot to make plays coming out of their own end when it mattered most.

Defensively the Titan played a solid road game, but failed to make plays, their lack of puck support and transitional defence led to their demise. The Wildcats were given a lot chances through the middle of ice, something that has to be rectified if the Titan hope to turn things around.

Trust me it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Cats defensive zone coverage either.

The word “soft” was thrown around in the press box last night to describe the Cats D-corps.

That may have been harsh, but in some cases it was true.

Collectively the Cats were out worked in the d zone which simply can’t happen.

Sure they sent the fans away happy on Friday night, but given the situation they really had no business winning that game, and if it wasn’t for Khovanov and Pelletier playing inspired they wouldn’t have.

“I thought we had a good start to the game, but after the second, I told the guys that they had to stop cheating, the Titan outworked us in the second,” confessed Pelletier.

“Khovy and I led the way in the 3rd period and people followed us,” Pelletier added.

The Wildcats were very good from the red line in when they puck possession, but their forecheck at times was non existent.

The Cats supported the puck and moved it effectively in the 1st, but went out on their own in the 2nd and played too much as individuals.

That just can’t happen, it’s clear that the Cats aren’t deep enough on the backend to play a really skilled game right now, and when the forward group doesn’t get in on the forecheck they look pretty exposed thus giving up far to many chances off the rush.

The Wildcats victory may have been all smoke and mirrors last night, but the Cats will have to bring their work ethic and their true identity for a full 60 mins on Sunday if they want to beat Jim Hulton’s Charlottetown Islanders.

Quick Hits

Riley Kidney is going to be a star in the QMJHL.

Anderson MacDonald has the potential to score 50 this season.

Jake Stewart’s presence was definitely missed in the Wildcats line up.

Jordan Spence will more than likely surpass the 60 pt plateau this season, the offensively gifted d man logged massive minutes.

Olivier Rodrigue played well, but at times was too deep in his net, clearly a sign he was battling some nerves.

Mika Cyr and Zachary L’Heureux were very good last night as well, the Cats will need them and Elliot Desnoyers to provide secondary scoring all year long to be successful.

Much needed reinforcement could be coming soon for the Wildcats blueline

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