May 6’s end-of-season media availabilities with the players provided an opportunity for them to take stock of the Lions’ inaugural season.Even though the Lions’ finished third in the North Division and forced a seventh and deciding game against one of the ECHL’s powerhouses in the first round, the players who spoke to the media were still not entirely satisfied with their just-concluded season. Trailing 3-1 in the North Division semi-finals against the Newfoundland Growlers, head coach Eric Bélanger's team never doubted their ability to win the series. The players believed they had the necessary talent to move on to the next round. So although the players were not completely satisfied, as their goal was to hoist the Kelly Cup, they still took pride in what they accomplished this season.It was a season filled with landmines as 82 players donned the Lions uniform during the team’s inaugural campaign. While player turnover to this degree brings its share of challenges, the fact that so many Quebecers played for the team made the task easier. "Although there were a lot of players on the team, they were practically all Quebecers, so it was quite easy to create a certain chemistry,” forward Shawn St-Amant said.Several players made a point of mentioning their appreciation of the support from the fans throughout the season. Lions captain Cédric Montminy said he could feel their love right from the beginning of the year. “We could quickly sense a feeling of belonging with the Lions,” he said. “We could see that people adopted the club as their own. In the playoffs, it was fantastic for us. The white towels that everyone was waving in Game Five was exceptional.”The same held true for defenceman Mathieu Brodeur, who was the only Lion to appear in every game in 2021-22. "To see a full house for the opening game of the regular season or for Game Five of the playoffs, and to feel the atmosphere in Colisée Vidéotron, it was really a great moment.”With the team composed primarily of Quebecers, the players could savor the feeling of playing at home in front of friends and family. It was a very special moment as some had not played in front of their loved ones in many years. The Lions' leading scorer this season, Anthony Nellis, addressed the subject."It was really a special feeling to play in front of my people,” Nellis said. “The atmosphere was incredible for the first game at Colisée Vidéotron. It gave me chills.”Although the Lions lost their inaugural game, having a Trois-Rivières native score the first goal in franchise history would seem like a dream come true. But that is exactly what happened when Alexis D'Aoust scored the team’s first-ever goal against the Newfoundland Growlers. D’Aoust confirmed that he’ll always remember the moment. “Coming from Trois-Rivières, there were a lot of people who came to see me play,” he said, “so it was really special to be able to score the first goal in team history. It's a feeling I won't forget.”ECHL contracts are usually for one season, so it won’t be until the summer before knowing which players will be returning. Lions forward William Leblanc, who registered 23 points in 32 games, made clear his desire to return for the 2022-23 campaign. “I really enjoyed my time here,” he said. “It would be a great opportunity for me to return to the Lions for a second year with the team.”
The players’ views of the Lions' first season in the ECHL
Friday, May 20th
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