ECHL: Trois-Rivieres Lions 2023-24 Season Recap

Andrew Fielder/InsideTheRink

The Trois-Rivieres Lions had a season to remember in 2023-24, as there was excitement at every turn of the season, and luckily for the fans of Trois-Rivieres, the season ended with their team not only still in the ECHL but making the Kelly Cup Playoffs. When looking back at the Trois-Rivieires 2023-24 season, there are three big areas that jump right out at you: ownership change, Leading Scorers, which includes the stellar season of Jakov Novak, and the goaltender, which certainly had its question marks.

Ownership Change

One of the bigger headlines around the league for Trois-Rivieres was their uncertain future in the league, with Deacon Sports & Entertainment being forced to sell both the Newfoundland Growlers and Trois-Rivieres Lions. Luckily for the Lions, it would be the Newfoundland Growlers who would end folding with 10 days left in the regular season, and the Lions would be bought by Spire Hockey, the same group the owns the Rapid City Rush and Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Spire Hockey has made it clear that their first order of business is to work with the city on a long-term lease to keep the Lions in Trois-Rivieres.

On the hockey side, the biggest thing will be to work with the Montreal Canadiens to renew the affiliation agreement between Montreal and Trois-Rivieres, which expired at the end of this season. There’s no question that the affiliation was beneficial to the Canadiens this season, as we saw a lot of movement between Trois-Rivieres and Laval. It’s going to be a very busy and exciting off-season for the Lions off the ice to get things in order by October for the start of the 2024-25 season.

Leading Scorers

Elisa Ouellet/InsideTheRInk

One of the Lions’ issues all season was scoring. They finished the season with the fourth-fewest points, finding the net 204 times. However, they were one of two teams that only played 69 games during the regular season. One of the bright spots for the Lions, however, was Jakov Novak, who became the first player to score 30 goals as he did in his rookie season; Novak did, however, play 14 games with the Allen Americans during the 2022-23 season. The 25-year-old forward was on a one-year AHL deal with Laval this season, and one would have to think that if the Rocket doesn’t re-sign him, the Lions will sign him to an ECHL deal regardless. Novak deserves a look next year at the lower of the three-letter levels.

The other bright spot for the Lions offensively was Nolan Yaremko, who spent the first two months of the season bouncing between Laval and Trois-Rivieres before getting sent down right before the ECHL All-Break and spending the rest of the season with the Lions. In 38 games with Trois-Rivieres, the Alberta native scored 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points; he had a goal and five assists in 13 games with Laval. Yaremko, like Novak, was on a one-year AHL deal with the Rocket.

Goaltending Carousel

The Lions’ Goaltending situation was similar to the carousel at La Rounde. The goalies just kept taking turns, but nobody seemed to grab a hold of the crease in Trois-Rivieres. Joe Vrtbetic was with the Lions for most of the season but struggled, going 10-14-3-1 with a 3.52 GAA, .891 SV%, and one shutout in 33 appearances, which led all Trois-Rivieres netminders. Zachary Bouthillier would see time with the Lions during the first half of the season, playing in 13 games, going 6-4 with a 2.68 GAA, .914 SV%, and a shutout before going down with a season-ending injury at the end of January.

In the final month of the season, the Lions would ride Zachary Emond and Strauss Mann, who both ended up in Trois-Rivieres after spending the 2022-23 season with the Wichita Thunder. Edmond would get hot down the stretch, picking up all three of his shutouts on the year in his final five starts of the year, including back-to-back shutouts against the Worcester Railers in the final weekend of the season to get the Lions into the Kelly Cup Playoffs, he would also allow three goals or less in his final five starts of the season as well. The 23-year-old goaltender would finish the season with a 9-7-1 record to go along with a 2.81 GAA and .907SV%. He would end up being the Lions’ number-one goaltender despite a first-round loss to the Norfolk Admirals in six games.

Mann split his season between Laval and Trois-Rivieres, spending the majority of the last two months with the Lions. In 11 games with Trois-Rivieres, he went 6-3-1 with a 2.59 GAA,910SV%, and one shutout. In Laval, he went 2-9-2 with a 3.69 GAA and a .879SV% in 15 games.

Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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