#AHLOTB: Pair steering path through Syracuse

By Julian McKenzie | AHL On The Beat

Two newcomers to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, Michael Bournival and Gabriel Dumont, have sparked the Syracuse Crunch to seven wins in the team’s first 11 games. Bournival and Dumont, both former Montreal prospects, share the Crunch lead in goals with four, alongside Yanni Gourde and Matthew Peca.

“Right now, pucks just seem to find the back of the net,” said Dumont. “[We’re] just really sticking to structure and just playing the way coach [Benoit Groulx] wants us to play.”

Bournival, 24, and Dumont, 26, have been teammates for the better part of four years through their time together in the Canadiens system. Off the ice, they sometimes go out for bowling, darts or dinner. On the ice, they’ve developed chemistry and complimented each other’s strengths.

“We are energetic players so when we are on the ice, we bring some grit,” said Bournival, whose plus-5 rating leads the Crunch. “That’s how we create turnovers and scoring chances,”

“He just works extremely hard and stays in the team structure,” said Dumont of his linemate. “I know kind of what he’s going to do because he sticks to the structure all the time and just does the right thing every time.

Following their time with Montreal, the Quebec natives signed one-year, two-way contracts with Tampa Bay in July. Dumont fondly remembers exchanging text messages with Bournival when the deals were completed.

“I shot him a text right away when I said I signed,” said Dumont. “I said, ‘You just can’t just get away from me, can you?’”

“I remember Gab texted me. He said, ‘I’m going to Tampa, too,’” said Bournival. “[It] was good because he’s the only person I knew here.”

Dumont, a center from Ville Degelis, was drafted 139th overall by the Canadiens in the 2009 NHL Draft but it wasn’t until three years later that he and Bournival, a winger from Shawinigan, became teammates.

The 2011-12 season was a banner year for Bournival, who was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche before being traded to the Canadiens for defenseman Ryan O’Byrne in November 2010.

Bournival was captain of his hometown junior team, the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and won his team’s first ever Memorial Cup that season. He was also a part of Team Canada’s bronze-medal winning team at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Alberta in January.

Bournival’s three-year entry-level contract began with the 2012-13 season, a campaign he spent with Montreal’s former affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he and Dumont would be among the team’s leading scorers.

The two often skated together as linemates with Hamilton, Montreal and the organization’s 2015-16 AHL affiliate, St. John’s. Bournival, two years younger than Dumont, saw the elder player as a veteran to look up to during his time in the Canadiens organization.

“In Montreal, we’re maybe four or five French guys. Usually makes sense sometimes [that] French guys are together,” said Bournival. “He was a good person to look up to. He was an example for me. I think he helped me to be a professional player in my first year.”

Dumont cracked Montreal’s lineup 21 times between 2011 and 2015, while Bournival appeared in 103 Canadiens contests from 2013 to 2015. Neither saw NHL action last season. Bournival was hampered by injuries in his last two seasons, including post-concussion symptoms that kept him out of games for 10 months in 2015.

“I was injured for two years. I expected to be released from them and I think it’s a good thing for me to have a new start after two bad years with injuries,” said Bournival.

Bournival and Dumont say the change in their environment and management have been welcome.

“After a while in the same organization staying in the [AHL], you kind of get overlooked, overpassed,” said Dumont. “It’s always the same management, same reason, same questions, right? It’s good to go on another team, have change, and hear from different people.”

“I think I have the opportunity to have a fresh start and with another organization to prove myself here,” said Bournival.