by Warren Rappleyea
Anthony Menard has played a key role in solidifying the Ottawa Junior Senators’ defense corps, but he is showing that he can contribute at the other end of the ice as well.
The Sherbrooke, QC, native’s power-play goal with time winding down in the first period proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 December 20 victory over the Cornwall Colts. The game remained scoreless the rest of the way as Connor Shibley made 26 saves to preserve the lead. More important, the win broke a three-game losing streak and sent the Junior Sens into the holiday break on a high note.
“That was a big goal because that was a game we really wanted,” Menard, who was named the game’s first star, said. “Alexandre Cote gave me a great pass and I was able to shoot quickly.”
Ottawa entered the break with a 16-13-3 mark for 33 points, good for sixth overall in the highly competitive Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) and just nine points behind the league-leading Navan Grads. Nine of the circuit’s 12 teams currently have winning records and all have scored some big wins, including the uncharacteristically struggling Brockville Braves.
A strong skater, who can make good first passes or carry the puck when necessary, Menard is looking forward to the second half with confidence that the best is yet to come for the Junior Sens.
“When you look at the Cornwall game, it shows that we have a really fast and talented group that can play with anyone,” he said. “We’re a young team and we want to play like that consistently and bring everything we can every night. It’s coming along, the guys are just beginning to see what this team is capable of accomplishing.”
Menard actually started out playing youth hockey as a forward, but soon moved to defense as he rose through the youth hockey ranks. Prior to coming to Ottawa he played for the QCHL’s College Champlain-Lennoxville, where he tallied a goal and added 15 assists during the 2021-22 campaign. Last season Menard joined the Fort McMurray Oil Baron of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, posting three goals and 11 assists in 54 matches in the remote franchise in Northeast Alberta, helping his team to a fifth-place finish in the league’s North Division.
The Junior Senators acquired the 6-0, 185-pounder over the summer for future considerations, in a move welcomed by Menard.
“I knew about the Junior Senators because they were known as the best team in the CCHL,” he explained. “I also heard from other players about what a great organization it is. So I was very interested in coming here.”
Clearly, Menard has fit right in on the ice. As a 20-year-old, he brings experience and leadership to his new team, and is a steadying influence in the room and off the ice. The coaching staff clearly trusts the righty-shooter and feels comfortable using him in all situations.
Away from the rink, Menard enjoys living in the Ottawa area, which he said is “like a smaller version of Montreal.” Although he enjoyed his time in Fort McMurray, he won’t miss the long bus rides through the wilds of western Canada.
“Coming here has been good for me, it’s a very competitive league and the furthest bus ride is two-and-a-half hours,” he said. “This is a good team that’s capable of going all the way and I just want to do my part. My goal is be the best version of myself on the ice every night and to help the team win.”