AHL: Xavier Simoneau does not back down from giants, he already inspires his Rocket teammates

LAVAL – For anyone who had ever seen Xavier Simoneau play a single game, it was obvious that the small five-foot-seven forward would end up doing well in the American Hockey League. But no one expected him to excel so early and inspire his teammates by rubbing shoulders with giants.

The game of October 28 perfectly sums up his start to the season. During this confrontation against the Rochester Americans, Simoneau scored a goal and collected an assist.

But his night was way busier than that, he didn’t back down from a monstrously bigger opponent.

At six-foot-five and 227 pounds, it was no exaggeration to say that Brett Murray looked like a giant against Simoneau (at five-foot-seven and 183 pounds).

Automatically, a smile clings to Simoneau’s face when we ask him what could have gone through his head.

“It’s quite special,” he admits, laughing. It happened quickly. »

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“Before the games, we always fool around looking at the opposing formation like ‘Hey Simoneau, he’s the big player (in the opposing camp)'”, he confides.

“It’s happened and it’s definitely going to happen with my style of play. But let’s say I got quite a bit of the biggest on the other side. I like it, it’s a good challenge, ”continued the friendly athlete.

Intense like no other, Simoneau did not want to fight during this episode. However, as he climbed to the American League level, his disturbing style sometimes led him to have to physically hold his own against professional hockey players who did not like to be pushed around.

” Exactly. Initially, we were in the corner and we ended up following each other to the center. At some point it became ‘Why not?’. It will be a funny anecdote to tell and I will remember it all my life, ”he deduces ten days later.

Hockey teams are no longer looking for brawlers and that’s good. Who would still want to show this kind of spectacle to their children?

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On the other hand, in the case of Simoneau, his bravery in his energetic playing becomes a source of inspiration.

“He plays like he’s a foot taller, it’s wonderful to see! He fears nothing. When you don’t back down from such tough opponents, it sends a big message to the rest of the team, the fans and the management,” said Mitchell Stephens, who played 72 games in the NHL.

“He is rewarded for his efforts, he has an impact from the start in the AHL. He’s one of the players that pulls us in the right direction,” Stephens boasted.

In all humility, Simoneau tells this.

“The guys found it fun to see that I’m not afraid. We still make jokes on the subject and even with my family and friends who still can’t believe it. In fact, even I sometimes ask what I was thinking,” mentioned one who found it amusing to witness the amazement of the descriptors when recounting the action.

The 21-year-old skater also amazes with his offensive production. In ten games, he had two goals and four assists, which places him fourth in scoring for the Rocket.

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“The first games were more difficult. In the juniors, you can have a bad game and sometimes get away with three points. Here, it’s not the case, you have to work for each point. It’s going well and the points follow. I couldn’t ask for better, as a start, about the statistics, ”acknowledged the left-hander.

With such a high level of passion, Simoneau doesn’t need any extra motivation to get high. But we wanted to know if he had been affected by the thematic match (November 5) dedicated to the fight against cancer.

“My ex’s grandfather died of cancer, he was an excellent person like all his family. I also think of my trainer (equipment attendant) in Drummondville who is currently battling cancer. He was a bit like my grandfather from the moment I got to 16. We had a very good relationship and we still talk to each other, ”said Simoneau, speaking of Robert “Bob” Pouliot.

A day to forget the defeats

The conversation with Simoneau took place after training devoted to development which was led by Adam Nicholas and his accomplices in this department.

“Sometimes, when it’s always coach who speaks, it’s good to hear other voices. This year, we have several people working on development and I think it’s really good for the players,” said head coach Jean-François Houle.

“Adam and his group watch a lot of our games and then we talk (to make a plan). It’s not throwing a dart blindly, it’s calculated and precise, ”he said as his team has just obtained a single victory in six straight games at home.

Among the aspects covered were drills for defensemen to better manage the puck on the offensive blue line under pressure from an opponent. The idea was to keep your head up, move better, perform feints to “freeze” the opponent and manage to shoot to the net or even go around it and move towards the enclave.

Among the attackers, the accent was particularly invested on the fights along the boards. Tricks were exposed to get in front of the opponent and protect the puck to create more offense.

“I love Adam’s work. It takes us a bit away from the system, we can develop individual skills. I liked the concept of sending false information to our adversaries to generate offensive then”, noted Justin Barron.

“We have the right to make mistakes in these practices. This is where you practice maneuvers, where you push yourself. When situations arise in games, you can get out of trouble with some of the tricks taught. I really retained the idea of ​​making the opponent bite to increase the likelihood that your gesture will work, ”targeted Nicolas Beaudin.

“These are concepts that correlate with success and productive offensive play. We were able to work on certain techniques and tendencies to read the game well during the games,” mentioned Stephens, who knows that his production of two points in nine games is insufficient.

The coaches want this development day to become a trigger for finding victories.

“We are not happy with the result, but we have a chance to count and if you look at the advanced statistics, we are at the top in several categories. It’s no use coming in and shouting, trying to turn everything upside down, I think we’re on the right track,” Houle concluded.

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