ANGERS, France – The Rouen Dragons struggled early in the season but didn’t fall. Instead, they ended up on top of the French club hockey world after defeating the Angers Ducs in overtime of Game 7 of the Ligue Magnus finals.
François-Pierre Guénette had the game winning goal for Rouen as the team celebrated its fourth straight Ligue Magnus title.
The Rouen Dragons took the initiative in Game 7 on Tuesday in Angers. Jonathan Janil scored a pair of goals in the first period that was interrupted by Angers’ first goal from Marc Belanger.
In a defensive-minded middle frame the Angers Ducs didn’t manage to defeat Rouen’s national team goalie Fabrice Lhenry, instead giving up another when Thinel made it 3-1 for Rouen.
Angers continued to fight back but to no avail, that is until late in the third period. Marco Ranallo cut the deficit with 4:43 left in regulation time, and with just two seconds left and goalkeeper Florian Hardy pulled, Fortier tied the game at three.
Overtime had to decide about the new French champion – but despite Angers late heroics, the title would stay in Rouen. Angers’ Campbell was assessed a penalty and François-Pierre Guénette netted the puck home after only 89 seconds of extra time, sealing a fourth consecutive French championship for him and for the rest of the Dragons.
The road to the championship was a bumpy one early on for Rouen. Rodolphe Garnier’s squad was slightly rebuilt early in the season and the Dragons needed some time for the team to gel together. After losing the Continental Cup title in January – the team ended up third in the final tournament in Donetsk, Ukraine – the Dragons improved in the standings and eventually reached second place behind Angers by the end of the regular season.
The late-blossoming Dragons hit their stride in the post-season. They had very tight games in the first two rounds but eventually eliminated both Morzine/Avoriaz and Briançon Diables Rouges with a 3-1 record in each of the series.
Regular-season winner Angers Ducs struggled against Grenoble Brûleurs de Loups in the quarter-finals after dropping two straight on the road, but eventually the “Owls” won the deciding game and followed up by defeating Epinal Dauphins in the semis, 3-1.
The final series for the Ligue Magnus was arguably one of the most exciting ones in French hockey history. It went the full distance of seven games, with all but one ending within a one-or two-goal margin.
During the first four games the home crowds were disappointed by their teams. Rouen won the first game in Angers 5-3 and followed up with a 3-2 win in a shootout the following day.
However, Angers was able to switch momentum to their side during the two road games. Julien Desrosiers opened the scoring for Rouen but Angers netted three goals in the last period to win the game 3-1. The day after the visiting team continued to play strong and earned a 3-0 lead after 12 minutes of play to eventually win the game 7-4 and tie the series. Eric Fortier and Cody Campbell each had three points and a +6 rating.
After winning game 5 on home ice 1-0 thanks to a late third-period goal from Braden Walls, the Angers Ducs were close to win the first championship in club history. Brian Henderson opened the scoring in game six for Angers in Rouen, but the home team responded with a strong second period with goals from Marc-André Thinel and Juraj Stefanka before Ilpo Salmivirta sealed the win with a 3-1 empty-netter.
For Rouen this has been the 13th championship and it’s the second time after 1992-1995 they won it four times in a row. Now the Rouen dynasty of the 2010s can challenge the record of six straight championships set by Chamonix (1963-1968).