Preview: Alouettes host Ticats in East Semi-Final on Saturday
For the second year in a row, the Alouettes will host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division Semi-Final. The Als won last year’s clash, 28-17, and they managed to win all three head-to-head matchups between these two teams in 2023.
The Alouettes finished the regular season riding a five-game winning streak. Their last loss came on Sep. 15 against Toronto.
“I’m confident in our group because of the way they work,” head coach Jason Maas said. “That’s our best trait. Everybody has talent. We work, and I love that about our team. They compete every day. That’s what it took to go on a five-game winning streak. It’s just putting your head down and working, and not worrying about five games from now or the playoffs.”
The Als lost starting left guard Pier-Olivier Lestage in the last game, which means that veteran Philippe Gagnon will need to step into that position. The 31-year-old is in his seventh CFL season, and he brings an element of experience to the line.
“I haven’t started a playoff game since my days playing University football at Laval,” Gagnon said. “There’s no difference between a regular season game and a playoff game. I prepare the same way and I do my best every play…the atmosphere is different, there are more people in the stands, but my preparation is the same.”
Sean Jamieson, who missed the entire regular season with a knee injury, will make his return to the lineup. He’ll serve as an extra lineman.
Veteran defensive lineman Almondo Sewell and Avery Ellis will both be back in the lineup on Saturday. Both players missed last week’s game due to injury.
In Eastern Division matchups, the Alouettes had a 7-3 record in 2023, while the Tiger-Cats went 3-7. In those games, the Alouettes surrendered just 197 points, which was the fewest number of points allowed by any team in the division, including Toronto (208).
The Als ranked fourth in the CFL in points scored, with 442 (24.6 points per game). The Tiger-Cats finished seventh in that category, with 408 points (22.7).
Defensively, Montreal surrendered the second-fewest amount of points this season, with 392 (21.8 per game). They trailed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who allowed just 377 points (20.7).
When it comes to penalties, the Als rank 5th in the CFL with an average of 7.9 penalties per game for 1,303 yards (4th in the CFL). The Tiger-Cats are last in penalties with an average of 9.1 penalties per game for 1,389 yards (6th in the CFL).
Lastly, the Alouettes turned the ball over 34 times, which is third best in the CFL and they forced 48 turnovers, which was the second-best mark in the league behind Toronto. The Ticats turned the ball over 47 times, which is tied for 7th in the league, and they created 43 turnovers which puts them in third behind the Argos and Als.
The Ticats have put Matthew Shiltz at the top of their depth chart at quarterback, but they have indicated publicly that both he and Bo Levi Mitchell will play in this game.
Shiltz, who spent four seasons with the Alouettes, was the starting quarterback for the first matchup between these two teams in 2023. He finished the season with seven touchdown passes and five interceptions in 11 games. The 30-year-old is also capable of using his legs to make plays, as he rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown this season.