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2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup: Cats coach Veilleux tight-lipped after emotions flare

Shawinigan Cataractes head coach Eric Veilleux (OHL Images)

SHAWINIGAN, Que. — We knew going into the Shawinigan vs. Saint John game that there would probably be some fireworks. After all, the two are league rivals with some past history and the game pitted the hosts against the Québec League champions for the first time in the tournament.

The Sea Dogs pulled away late in the game, with a Jonathan Huberdeau empty-net goal making the score 4-1 in front of a rowdy crowd. It was the type of game where extra-curricular activities are bound to happen—after all, if Shawinigan come back and defeat Edmonton in Thursday's tie-breaker, the two will face each other again for Friday's semi-final. There was going to be some message-sending.

After a fight between the Cataractes' Vincent Arseneau and the Sea Dogs' Grant West, for the ensuing face-off Shawinigan head coach Éric Veilleux sent three listed defencemen on the ice, one of them being Dillon Donnelly, son of former NHL tough guy Gord Donnelly. Dillon led the Cataractes with 125 penalty minutes in the regular season and 11 scraps, according to hockeyfights.net.

(Update: The Canadian Hockey League has fined each team $2,500 Cdn for "conduct prejudicial to the welfare of the game and the tournament.")

Needless to say, the officials did not think too highly of Veilleux's lineup decision and he clashed with Saint John's Ian Saab and was kicked out of the game for all intents and purposes, given a 10-minute misconduct.

After the game, Buzzing the Net asked Veilleux about his tactics, but he was less than willing to tell the assembled media that he was planning to 'goon it up' at the end of a loss:

"I wasn't planning it, but not that I didn't trust when I had Bournival, Zlobin, Kabanov, Chaput, I didn't think those guys, I didn't take any chances putting those guys on the ice with what I saw for example. Game Two that we played, so that was pretty much it."

Veilleux used the term "bench management" in his presser, although that was in reference to a question about the possibility of playing three games in three nights should the Cataractes win the tiebreaker.

About whether the fact that Donnelly had previously fought in the tournament played at all into his decision, Veilleux was less than willing to speak up:

"No. No. I don't know what that means exactly."

Fair enough. But keeping the teams' star players like Michael Bournival, Anton Zlobin, Kirill Kabanov and Michael Chaput off the ice towards the end of the game doesn't necessarily mean that Donnelly can play forward. He scored a single goal in his 59 games this season, which is a low total even for a defenceman. If Veilleux indeed saw the game going off the rails (the final minute took 11 actual minutes to complete) he could have reined his kids in and better prepared them for the next game.

Gerard Gallant, whose team isn't exempt, also didn't delve too far into the fiasco after the game. Of the 72 total penalty minutes between the teams, 34 of them took place in the game's final minute after Huberdeau's empty-net goal.

On Veilleux's decision to send out Donnelly:

"They can do what they want. They coach their own team, I coach my team, and you know it's not a big deal with us. We were gonna play a physical game and we weren't going to get involved in too much we didn't have to, and like I said, we're not going to back down from anybody, and like I said, he coaches his team, I'll coach my team and that's the way it goes. Not a big deal with us."

The more interesting bout involving the two coaches wasn't in words, as took place last night between Mark Hunter and Derek Laxdal, but on the ice. TV viewers were privy to an encounter at the end of the game that took place between the benches, where Veilleux climbed up to the top of the glass, screaming at the Saint John bench:

"I wasn't climbing the glass. I was just asking Gerard why he had to spend so much time talking to the maritime referee."

Jonathan Langille is from Upper Sackville, Nova Scotia.

Veilleux's questions unfortunately fell on the ears of assistant coach Mike Kelly, who was unavailable for comment after the game. Gallant responded with a laugh:

"What coaches? I wasn't involved in nothing. Yeah, there was a little bit of yelling, but I wasn't in there."

Should the teams meet up again on Friday, expect another emotional affair. These teams don't like one another.

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