HAMILTON — A list of things tougher than getting a CFL win in Montreal in the early stages of this season is about as long as the list of reasons Toronto would welcome another G20 Summit.
Which is to say, not very long.
Since head coach Marc Trestman joined the Als for the 2008 season and made them even more dominant, any win against the Als is tough. It’s just that much tougher when the season is still in its early stages and particularly so when the Als are playing at home.
Under his watchful eye over the past two seasons, Trestman-coached teams have only lost at home twice — once early in 2008 to Calgary and once late in the same season to Winnipeg.
Otherwise, the league is 0-for in Montreal in two full seasons.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, coming off a thorough demolishing of Winnipeg that earned quarterback Kevin Glenn MVP honours for the week, hope to become just the third team to win in Montreal going back to the end of the 2007 season. While the odds are not great, there is reason for optimism.
It was just about a year ago to the day that Marcel Bellefeuille’s boys waltzed into Montreal with a 2-1 record and on a two-game win streak.
Quinton Porter started at quarterback. Glenn mopped up but neither got the team in a rhythm as the Als remained undefeated with a 21-8 win. It was one of the Als’ less-one-sided home wins of the season, but a win nonetheless.
Twelve weeks later, with Glenn now the starter, the Ticats came oh-so-close to their first win in Montreal since 2002. Glenn had a career day, throwing for 506 yards and three touchdowns, but the Als still managed to pull that one out by a 41-38 score.
Could this be the year that the Ticats finally solve the Alouettes in Montreal?
There is a definite quiet confidence about this team despite its 1-2 record.
“I believe we are a great team,” linebacker Markeith Knowlton said. “I think we’ve come a long way.
“It’s the second year under coach (Greg) Marshall’s defence and coach Marcel (Bellefeuille) and (general manager) Bob O’Billovich have done a great job of bringing in great players. I see us matching up against Montreal very well. We have to limit our mistakes and keep them from gaining any momentum.”
The Als come into the game tied for first in the East with the Argos with a 2-1 record. All three Montreal games have been on the road with wins in B.C. and Edmonton and an overtime loss in Saskatchewan.
Montreal isn’t blowing teams out like it has in the past, but as Bellefeuille points out, there might be reasons for that.
“They’re the type of team that is so explosive they can break out for 50 a week for five consecutive weeks,” he said. “The (lower scoring) might be part and parcel of them being on a long western road swing and just getting worn down a little bit.”
But Bellefeuille knows that the Tabbies aren’t likely to get any breaks against the Als on Thursday night in Montreal.
“You expect their best football game,” he said of the Alouettes home opener.
Key for Ticats
The key for the Ticats is their offence has to match the Als defence in its commitment, while defensively they have to find ways to pressure perennial CFL all-star quarterback Anthony Calvillo so he doesn’t have the chance to get into his short-game rhythm.
“They are one of those defences that never quits,” Glenn said. “They’re going the whole 60 minutes and that’s how we are going to have to play as an offence.”
One thing everyone in the black and gold concedes is they head into Montreal as underdogs, but being the underdog isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I love a good underdog,” Knowlton said. “There’s nothing better than being an underdog and then whupping somebody’s butt, you know?”
At least that’s the plan going in.