ROUEN – The Rouen Dragons fired six goals in their 6-0 opening-day win over HC Asiago while French national team goalie Fabrice Lhenry earned a shutout with 32 saves.
The almost 3,000 fans at the tiny, but loud and full Patinoire Île Lacroix couldn’t believe their eyes that the clash against the Italian champion was won in such easy fashion. The game wasn’t as lopsided as the result indicates, but the superior power play and offensive skills of the Dragons helped making the score lopsided in the end, as did Lhenry, who was selected best player of his team.
“We were surprised about winning with such a high score as we expected a tight match,” Lhenry said. “On the other hand, we’ve been together for a couple of years and have developed automatisms. We were well prepared, studied their power play and how we have breakaways.”
Five out of the six goals were scored by Rouen’s French-Canadian forwards. François-Pierre Guénette and Carl Mallette scored two each, Jean-Philippe Paré and French national team defenceman Antonin Manavian netted the other goals.
Already from the very beginning the Rouen Dragons had more luck and success. Guénette was sent to the penalty box early into the game, but the French were all smile when Paré scored a shorthanded goal at 3:20.
Rouen outshot Asiago 14-12 in the first period and was also awarded a penalty shot when Calle Bergström held Marc-André Thinel on another shorthanded breakaway attempt, but Asiago netminder Anthony Grieco made the save on Thinel’s shot.
Early in the second period it was again the Rouen Dragons who scored. Guénette was again involved, but this time by scoring the goal after a pass from Austrian-Canadian defenceman Darcy Werenka. Half a minute later Paré almost scored the third goal when he appeared alone in front of Grieco, but the Italian-Canadian netminder caught the puck.
The game continued to go from one to the other end, mostly depending on the many penalties the teams took. And it was Rouen, which continued to be the better team both on the power play and box play.
After Italian national team defenceman Michele Strazzabosco tripped Anthony Rech on a breakaway attempt, there was no penalty shot awarded this time, but the French capitalized on the power play late with a goal from Mallette.
Guénette got his second marker of the night when Rouen capitalized on another power play with two minutes left in the middle period.
Asiago continued to struggle and to take penalties in the third period. Thinel missed with with his second penalty shot of the game at 1:11, but at 3:46 of the third Manavian made it 5-0 with another power-play goal and Mallette hit the back of the net with less than three minutes left in the game.
Rouen might face tougher opposition when they play reigning Continental Cup champion Yunost Minsk on Saturday night.
“We know we’re not the favourite, but want to surprise and we will do everything for it,” Lhenry said.