SHAWINIGAN, Que. — Dislike the MasterCard Memorial Cup format all you wish — but admire the way the Shawinigan Cataractes have made it work for them.
The Cataractes' new challenge is guarding against letting their 7-4 takedown of Saint John 7-4 in Friday's semifinal, in front of a Centre Bionest crowd of 4,763 that was so loud the players couldn't even hear coach Éric Veilleux speak during the third period, stand as their MasterCard Memorial Cup final. The past two tournaments have seen the host team win the semi but lose the final. Neither was as clear-eyed or fresh-legged as the Cats, who didn't even make their league semifinal will face the London Knights on Sunday evening.
Everyone knows how Veilleux put his team through a boot camp before the tournament. It was borne out Friday when the Cats, in a humid and foggy arena, failed to betray any sign of fatigue while scoring three late goals to win after the defending champion Sea Dogs had come back from being down 4-2. The other payoff from the layoff is that it gave 20-odd junior players enough time to ponder and then accept livin' the dream for all those who have sustained Quebec's longest-running major junior team.
First and foremost, it's about the fresh legs, though. Friday was quintessentially QMJHLian — momentum swings, a crowd that wouldn't know the meaning of the term "dull roar," some sloppiness and teams trading haymakers. The Cataractes' extra energy gave them enough to grab the line between speed and chaos. The way they finished suggests the London Knights will have to win on merit and good fortune on Sunday, not by being on the same schedule as Justin Verlander, working on four days' rest.
"We've spent a full month working out," said winger Pierre-Olivier Morin, whose line with Michaël Bournival and designated tipper Yannick Veilleux produced the game-winner with 6:46 left. "We just did a 3-in-3 and feel we still have a lot of energy. We're going to have a day off [Saturday] and we're going to come back for a big game on Sunday.
"I don't think we're going to have a problem with not being able come down from this win," added Morin, who grew up in nearby Trois-Rivières. "We went game-by-game the last three games and didn't focus too far ahead. I think actually maybe we have to celebrate tonight and then get ready for Sunday. We're still fresh, we still have a lot of legs."Read More »from 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup: Shawinigan Cataractes move on from Saint John, focus on London while carrying city’s hopes