It was another disappointing end to the season for the Quebec Citadelles and
their fans. Since the Montreal Canadiens moved their farm club to Quebec City
three years ago, the Citadelles haven’t enjoyed any prolonged playoff success.
In three seasons, they have never managed to pass through to the second round.
In 1999, they were eliminated in three games by the Providence Bruins in the
first round. Last season, they did better by defeating the St. John’s Maple
Leafs in four games but were eventually defeated by the Saint John Flames in the
second round. This year, the Citadelles seemed to have a team capable of going
further. They had been relatively consistent throughout the season and had won
the Canadian Division regular season championship. They ended up in third place
in the Eastern Conference and had home-ice advantage in the first round. Unlike
last season, when the fact that the Canadiens had sent the Citadelles a couple
of players just in time for the playoff had hurt team chemistry, this year the
Citadelles started the playoffs with all their regular players. All elements
were in place for the fans to watch their team compete deep into spring. But as
we know, the Citadelles were surprised by the Hamilton Bulldogs and swept one
This season, the Citadelles played .500 hockey against Hamilton. They were
winless in Hamilton but the Bulldogs were also winless at the Colisée Pepsi.
This stat seemed to have no impact on this series as Hamilton defeated Quebec
twice in the Citadelles own arena. The Citadelles started the game well in the
first game of the series. Their offence worked very well as they outshot the
Dogs 16-4 through the first period. But Hamilton’s Ty Conklin played extremely
well, depriving Quebec of many goals. Finally, it was Hamilton who managed to
win as they scored in overtime. By doing so well, Claude Julien’s team reached
their initial objective by taking at least one game in Quebec.
Two days later, both teams met again in Quebec. This time, it was Hamilton
who took control of the game early as they bombarded Mathieu Garon with many
good shots. After ten minutes of play, the Cits had yet to muster any shots on
goal. When their first shot finally came, the crowd let out a mock cheer. They
were also booed by their fans after a terrible first period. They came back
stronger in the second and also played well in the third, but were unable to
capitalize on their opportunities. Ironically, Quebec’s lone goal of the game
came from one of the team’s most defensive player; Gennady Razin scored for just
the second time this season.
For the third game the Citadelles and the Bulldogs travelled to Copps
Coliseum in Hamilton. Once again, the Dogs took the lead in the game but the
Citadelles managed to eventually take a 5-3 lead in the beginning of the third
period. But late in the game, Hamilton reduced Citadelles’ hopes as they tied
the game; forcing overtime for a second time in the series. They finally won the
game 6-5 and sent Quebec’s players on holiday sooner than expected.
Overall, the Citadelles played well offensively but poor defensive play was
the cause of the team’s bad performance. The players made irreparable mistakes
that cost them goals. The coaches were concerned about this aspect of the team
even before the series started. Mathieu Descoteaux was their most experienced
defenseman, but had had a difficult season. He confessed that former players
like Barry Richter and Miloslav Guren would have certainly helped the team.
Players like Francis Bouillon and Andrei Markov who started the season in Quebec
would certainly have helped the blue line. In net as always, Mathieu Garon was
great and cannot be blamed. He offered a great performance and made some
important and impressive saves to keep his team in the game.
Now, the fans will have to wait until next June to know if they will still
have hockey in Quebec next season. The Quebec and Montreal organizations have a
nine-year contract with an option to move the team after three years. There are
countless rumours that things are not going as well as they once were between
the two organizations. At first, the rumours said it was the Citadelles’ owner
who wanted to let the team go, but now it seems the Montreal Canadiens could be
interested in moving their farm club somewhere else. Actually, there’s no word
from either organization, but they will meet each other in June, where the
Citadelles’ future will be determined.
The coaching staff met individually with each player on April 19th.
Citadelles Management will make the bilan of the year at the beginning of next
Mathieu Garon, Vadim Tarasov, Benoit Gratton, Mike Ribeiro, Matt O’Dette, Ron
Hainsey and Eric Landry were all selected by the Canadiens to join them for the
rest of the playoffs.
Ron Hainsey could join Team Usa in Sweden for the World Championship. He’ll
be invited to join the team if Dallas’ Derian Hatcher decline the invitation.
Eric Landry was named Citadelles Player of the year. Craig Darby and Mathieu
Garon finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.