Bouchard, Perreault finding sweet success

by Jess Mikula || AHL On The Beat Archive 

East Division juggernaut Hershey has assembled a veritable host of scoring threats on this year’s roster. Boasting a league-best 229 goals scored on the season, the Bears are finding contributions not just from AHL leading scorers Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux, but from all four lines.

The sophomore duo of Mathieu Perreault and Francois Bouchard is quietly amassing points for the Chocolate and White, as the team looks to defend its Calder Cup title.

Perreault and Bouchard are no strangers to accumulating points. Each collected a Jean Beliveau Trophy as the leading scorer of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Bouchard in 2006-07 and Perreault in 2007-08. As part of an all-rookie line with Bouchard and Oskar Osala, Perreault led Hershey rookies with 50 points in 77 games last season.

Bouchard currently sits fifth in team scoring with 13 goals and 25 assists in 51 games, and Perreault ranks eighth with 10 goals and 24 assists in just 36 games.

Both Perreault and Bouchard credit their on-ice success to chemistry.

“When you play with good players it’s always easier to get points, and we’re offensive players,” Bouchard said.

“We’ve played with Bourquie [Chris Bourque] the last 20 games or so. When you play with those kinds of guys you just get open and make the good plays, and it’s easier to get points.”

Perreault’s impressive play earned him a nod from the Washington Capitals early in the season, making his NHL debut on Nov. 4 against the New Jersey Devils. He registered two assists in his inaugural game and tallied two goals and five assists over the course of his 18-game stint.

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Bouchard was with him when he received the call.

“It was a fun day for him. I was excited for him. It’s always fun to see a buddy get called up to the NHL. I was wishing him the best,” Bouchard said.

Upon his return to Hershey, Perreault was reunited with his linemate and fellow French-Candian. The two knew each other prior to their tenure in Hershey, meeting at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver in 2006. They played on opposing teams in the QMJHL — Perreault for Acadie-Bathurst and Bouchard for Baie-Comeau — and eventually came to Chocolatetown.

The connection between Perreault and Bouchard is strong.

“We’re both French-Canadian and we’re the same age,” said Bouchard. “It’s always fun to have a buddy speak the same language. We play together on the ice, so we click.”

Perreault is an adept playmaker, always seeming to have an impeccable awareness of his teammate. The pair have combined for 12 points in their past four games. Bouchard has recorded two goals and two assists, while Perreault has notched three goals and five assists, including his first career hat trick on Feb. 7.

“I felt like when I scored my first NHL goal, the same celebration. It’s a good feeling. It’s always fun to score goals,” Perreault said of his three-goal effort.

Perreault’s hat trick fueled a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, a testament to the character of the Drummondville, Que., native as well as the entire Bears team.

“It’s always fun to win like that and show that we as a team have character and we can bounce back after a bad first period,” he said.

“This is what good teams do when they’re down. They’re battling back.”