International Ice Hockey Federation

End of an era

End of an era

Huet, Meunier say farewell in win over Slovenia

Published 15.05.2017 23:09 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
End of an era
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 15: France's Cristobal Huet #39 and Laurent Meunier #10 are honoured during a ceremony dedicated to their international career following their final game as a member of the national team against Slovenia during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
French goalie Cristobal Huet and captain Laurent Meunier ended their long and honourable international careers with a 4-1 victory over Slovenia on Monday.

On paper, the final group game for both teams at the AccorHotels Arena only mattered for seeding purposes. France had already been eliminated from quarter-final contention, while Slovenia was doomed to last place in Group B.

But it was a time to celebrate and reflect on two players who have made immeasurable contributions to the success of French hockey. Les Bleus have stayed in the elite division of the IIHF World Championship every year since 2008.

"For what those two did for the team for ten years and more, it was important to win," said Antoine Roussel. "They've been on the national team for so long, it's like they're furniture out there. They're unbelievable guys and for me to have the chance to play with them when they were my idols growing up was huge."

Huet shone in his swan song as Slovenia outshot France 27-25. Roussel led the way with a hat trick and an assist, while Yohann Auvitu had a goal and two helpers.

With 24 seconds left in the game, coach Dave Henderson called his timeout and the French players came out to bang their sticks on the ice and salute their veteran netminder. Huet then retired to the bench as backup Florian Hardy gave him a well-earned rest. He was named France's Player of the Game.

Huet, 41, first suited up at an IIHF World Championship in 1997. This is his 13th elite-division tournament, tying him for the all-time record with Russia’s Vladislav Tretiak and Belarus’s Andrei Mezin. In addition to a distinguished career with French and Swiss NLA clubs (he won a title in each league), the two-time Olympian became the first Frenchman to capture the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.

Meunier, 38, made his top-level Worlds debut in 1999 and has played 12 elite-division Worlds. He has worn the “C” with the national team since 2005. The all-around forward’s club career has taken him to France, the United States, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

Most of the crowd of 12,807 stayed to give their two heroes an appreciative homage during an emotional post-game ceremony.

"We have to do the work and stay in the top division, but it would be fun to host another tournament," said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. "We brought in great crowds, and this was our first in so long. Imagine if we got another one!"

In the first period, the French started off slowly and Huet confounded the Slovenian attack. He foiled Bostjan Golicic on two close-in attempts. With 3:16 left in the frame, defenceman Jonathan Janil tripped up Ales Music on a breakaway and the Slovene was awarded a penalty shot. Huet stared him down and Music fired wide.

Early in the second period, Janil and his partner Damien Raux kept the game deadlocked at zero, scrambling to block two Slovenian attempts on an empty net with Huet caught out of position.

The French finally broke through with NHL expertise. At 8:20, 15 seconds into a power play, Auvitu of the New Jersey Devils unleashed a center point shot that the Dallas Stars agitator Roussel, parked in front, tipped past Slovenian starter Matija Pintaric. Less than three minutes later, Auvitu scored his second goal of the tournament on a snap shot, converting a drop pass from Bellemare of the Philadelphia Flyers.

At the other end, Huet denied Golicic on a nice chance off the rush, and denied Robert Sabolic from the slot with France killing a late-period penalty for too many men on the ice.

In the third period, Roussel stretched France's lead to 3-0 at 4:01 with a two-man advantage, tipping in another Auvitu shot. Just 24 seconds later, Mursak struck back with a shorthanded breakaway tally, fighting off a backchecking Damien Fleury and tucking a backhand through Huet's legs.

But the Slovenes wouldn't be able to spoil the festivities for Huet and Meunier. Roussel rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:30 left, and the fans chanted in honor of Huet as the seconds ticked down.

"We still haven't played our best hockey," said Mursak of Slovenia. "It was a disappointing showing. Maybe we're just not enough for the top division, but we have a good group of guys and we're going to talk and show up stronger next time."

"The team played well," said Roussel. "We had four wins, and any time you get 10 points, you make it to the quarter-finals. Today we didn't. It's a tough pill to swallow. We worked so hard and so long, but we have to be happy as well. We brought a lot of heart to the game. There's a lot more positives than negatives."

Slovenia's three best players of the tournament were named: Jan Mursak, Robert Sabolic, and Ales Kranjc. For France, it was Cristobal Huet, Laurent Meunier, and Stephane Da Costa.


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