In a series that capitalized on comebacks, it was only fitting the winner was scored shutting one down.
Anthony Mantha, the playoff goal-scoring leader, scored his most important goal with 52 seconds to play as the Val-d’Or Foreurs held off the QMJHL’s best team, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar to win Game 7 4-3.
Val-d’Or won the last two games of the series going away, taking Game 6 at home 6-3 and stealing a win on the road at the Centre Henry-Léonard.
The Foreurs looked to be in control of the game after two periods of play, holding a 3-0 lead despite being outshot 24-11. The Drakkar had other ideas, scoring three goals in the third period, including two in the final six minutes, to come back to tie the score at three, and it nearly looked like the QMJHL would see its first Game 7 overtime in the final series.
That’s when Mantha went for the heroics, burying a Louick Marcotte pass for his 24th goal of the post-season with just under a minute to go in the game. Mantha added two assists in the biggest game of his career to date.
The Detroit first rounder finished with 38 points in the playoffs, enough for second overall in the scoring race, behind the superhuman performance of Halifax Moosehead Jonathan Drouin and his 41 points.
The Foreurs got production from their most important players on Tuesday, as Mantha’s three points was helped by Marcotte’s two point effort and goals from Samuel Henley and Randy Gazzola. As well, a strong 40-save effort from Antoine Bibeau was the difference.
Baie-Comeau outshot Val-d’Or 43-22, but couldn’t solve Bibeau more than three times.
For his troubles, Bibeau won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. He went 15-8, with a .913 save percentage and a GAA of 2.80. He was spectacular when he needed to be, and made coach Mario Durocher look like a genius, getting Bibeau with a fifth for a first, a third and a fourth round pick in December.
The Foreurs are the first team to win two Game 7s en route to a title.
For the Drakkar, their troubles will lay on their best players. Philippe Cadorette wasn’t good enough, with a .888 save percentage in the finals. Bibeau went .920. Charles Hudon wasn’t good enough, just 6 points in the series and going pointless in games 6 and 7. Valentin Zykov had a monster Game 5, and then just four points otherwise, while no other Drakkar scorer had more than 13 points in the playoffs.
Jérémy Grégoire, with a goal and an assist in game 7 and 12 points in the series, was the clear leader of the offense for the Drakkar, and it wasn’t enough. The team that played the best defence wasn’t a match for the league’s best offense. As it usually does, it came down to the opposite effect, and the Foreurs defence matched the Drakkar offence.
Val-d’Or is the first Quebec-based team in five years to lift the President’s Cup. Halifax won it last season, while the Saint John Sea Dogs won in 2011 and 2012, and the Moncton Wildcats won in 2010.
The Drummondville Voltigeurs are the last QMJHL champions to come from la belle province, when they won in dramatic fashion in 2009.
The Foreurs won’t have time to rest up, as they begin their quest for the Memorial Cup Friday, taking on a very rested London Knights in what will sure to be a rocking Budweiser Gardens. The Guelph Storm and Edmonton Oil Kings will also be in London, looking to win the Canadian junior hockey ultimate prize.
Val-d’Or has never won the Memorial Cup, but they have attended two previous tournaments, in 1998 and 2001. They went to the Memorial Cup final in 2001, but lost to the Red Deer Rebels in overtime.