Thu Nov 03 10:15am EDT
As a youngster, François Brassard always dreamed about playing for or against the Gatineau Olympiques but never thought about the outcome of that first game.
The dream became reality on Wednesday when the rookie goalie starred for the Quebec Remparts against the Gatineau Olympiques, a team he grew up watching as a minor hockey player. Brassard was rock-solid in stopping 34-of-35 shots as his Remparts won 4-1 to give the hometown kid his fifth win.
"I dreamed of playing for or against the Olympiques, but never imagined how the game may turn out," Brassard said after the game at Robert Guertin Arena.
The 17-year-old, who backs up Phoenix Coyotes prospect Louis Domingue, is 5-2-1-0. Brassard is seventh in the QMJHL with 3.01 goals-against average and has a .904 save percentage. He has helped the Remparts rise to to fifth place with 27 points while fighting it out with the Victoriaville Tigres and Shawinigan Cataractes for top spot in the Telus East Division. The Tigres and Cataractes each have 29 points but have played two more contests than Quebec.
As far as rookie goalies are concerned, Brassard is right behind Victoriaville's Brandon Whitney as the league's best. Whitney is undefeated in eight games and sports a 2.46 GAA and .927 save percentage.
"I was motivated to play in front of family and friends," said Brassard.
"It feels good to win and it's even more special here at the Guertin Arena where I watched so many games."
'Had the guts to play well'
Of course, playing goal for the Remparts means playing for Hockey Hall of Fame netminder Patrick Roy, Quebec's coach, GM and part-owner. Roy did not hesitate to give his young apprentice the start even though Brassard was coming off a rough outing in his last start.
On Oct. 20, the slender 6-foot-1, 154-pound Brassard was stung for six goals in a game against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Wednesday night was another story altogether.
"We [Quebec] started slowly but François made some great saves and kept us in the game," Roy said after the game.
"I was happy to give him the start in Gatineau, because I knew he had the guts to play well and rise to the occasion."
Cut from several teams
A sixth-round pick in last summer's QMJHL Draft, Brassard has fought through several setbacks to earn a spot with the Remparts.
Brassard was cut twice by an Ottawa bantam AA team and could not catch on with the Gatineau Intrepid midget AAA organization.
His luck began to change last season. He was picked up by another midget team, the Lac-St. Louis Lions, and led them to the league championship.
Brassard, who was selected 92nd overall in the QMJHL draft, was the 12th goalie selected. He and Halifax Mooseheads first-rounder Zachary Fucale are the only two netminders from that draft currently playing in the league.
"François had a really good start," Roy explained.
"When the season began, Louis [Domingue] was not there and Francois had a lot of pressure on his shoulders. We lost our first three matches, but the kid never lost his composure or concentration."
Now that Brassard has his first win in Gatineau out of the way, will he become a regular fixture whenever the Remparts come back into town later this season and in the future?
"It is difficult to predict whether Francois will be the guardian of the future of our team, but he has the profile to become one," Roy said.
Mike Beasley is the QMJHL correspondent for Buzzing The Net (photo: Valerie Wutti).