MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes are heading into Saturday’s game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with some rare momentum.
The Alouettes (3-6) handed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers their first loss of the season last week and now have a four-game home stint ahead of them. The Alouettes will finish the season with six of their last nine games at Percival Molson Stadium.
Danny Maciocia’s team hasn’t won back-to-back games this year. While a win against Hamilton (3-6) on Saturday would be a great kickstarter for the home stretch, Maciocia knows his team needs to perform consistently at home. Montreal is 1-2 at Percival Molson Stadium this year.
"Every game is going to be crucial from this point on, all nine," Montreal's head coach and interim general manager said. “Yes, it's important. Yes, we have to play our best football game. Yes, we got to try to get on a little bit of a run here but I'd rather break it down as a short-term goal than start looking at a long-term picture.
“Six out of nine sounds nice … but what are you going to do when you're playing at home during those six contests? You’ve got to find a way to win. Last year, we weren't able to do so. We were a sub .500 team at home so that's the reason why we go out there and practice."
The Tiger-Cats are also heading to Montreal on the highs of a win last week. Orlondo Steinauer’s team scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to down the visiting Toronto Argonauts 34-27.
“It took us a few weeks to get the hang of this,” said Ticats running back Sean-Thomas Erlington about playing a strong fourth quarter. “It’s obviously something we needed to get better at and we were able to show people, show ourselves, that we were capable of doing that, finishing games.
"We’ve just got to work off of this win, off of this last fourth quarter, and play all four quarters like that.”
Steinauer "doesn’t subscribe to" the idea of momentum. Instead, he asked his team for “consistency versus momentum.”
“It’s kind of like getting excited for the opening kickoff. It lasts about four seconds and then you've got to play the game,” Steinauer said. “We’ll see, that will unveil itself over time. I’m not saying that we won’t look back, maybe, and you know we put together a good string of victories or something but I think that’s more external stuff versus internal.”
Maciocia had his team train at Percival Molson Stadium on Wednesday, away from their usual practice field at Olympic Park.
He said the hope is to continue splitting their practice time between venues going forward adding that the feedback from players was: “We gotta do this more often.”
"Every time we play at home it's a road game because we go into a stadium that we really only use nine times a year," Maciocia said. "So that's why it's going to be critical for us to familiarize ourselves with that, even just the end zone. You know, the end zone is a unique end zone compared to the other eight teams."
The decision comes after an awkward play where Eugene Lewis caught a pass that would have been a touchdown in all other CFL stadiums during Montreal’s last home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Lewis fell out of bounds because the corners of both end zones at Percival Molson Stadium are truncated by a track and field ring.
"I love practising where we play," said Lewis. "I basically did that for most of my career so I think it definitely does have an effect but I mean, at the end of the day, you just got to go out there and play football. You just have to find a way to adjust to the parameters of the field and then go from there."
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (3-6) VS. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (3-6)
Saturday, Percival Molson Stadium
SHILTZ RETURNS: Hamilton quarterback Matthew Shiltz will make a return to Montreal after playing four seasons for the Alouettes. The 29-year-old threw for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception during last week’s win over Toronto.
EVANS ON ROSTER: While Shiltz is listed as the starter for Saturday, quarterback Dane Evans appeared on Hamilton’s depth chart as the team’s third string. Evans, the team’s usual starter, hasn’t played since Hamilton’s 34-20 loss to Toronto in Week 9.
SUTTON SHINES: Montreal cornerback Wesley Sutton was named on the CFL team of the week following the Alouettes’ win over Winnipeg. Sutton made five defensive tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.
Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press