Quebec Remparts exploit Kelowna's lapses in discipline to grab Memorial Cup opener

Quebec Remparts exploit Kelowna's lapses in discipline to grab Memorial Cup opener
The Quebec Remparts edge the WHL champion Kelowna Rockets in Game 1 of the Memorial Cup. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images
The Quebec Remparts edge the WHL champion Kelowna Rockets in Game 1 of the Memorial Cup. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images

QUEBEC CITY — In the hours prior to his game against the Kelowna Rockets, Adam Erne spoke about the disappointment of having lost the QMJHL title in double overtime of Game 7.

As hosts of the 2015 Memorial Cup, the Quebec Remparts were already guaranteed a berth in the tournament, but now they were coming in as the only team that hadn’t won anything. The 20-year-old was stoic when asked about quickly putting aside that disappointment – Quebec also allowed a big lead to disappear in Game 6 of the Q final - for the tournament.

"Honestly I think if we would have won it would have been probably more difficult,” said Erne. “You lose, you’re hungry to win.

"These guys have already won, I think it’s harder for them to focus and try to get back on track. For us, we want to get going again – the other teams haven’t felt what we felt. It’s still something that stings for us and we’re going to use it as motivation."

And that motivation proved enough as the Remparts pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Western Hockey League-champion Rockets. For most of the game, the Rockets were outplayed by their Quebec hosts, though ill-timed penalties put them at a further disadvantage and stole their momentum.

“That’s a big factor definitely in this tournament – is penalties,” said Kelowna captain Madison Bowey. “We knew that going in and to take (five) penalties like we did today was not our goal or not something that we can be proud of, so we have to really turn that around.”

The referees for the game were Jonathan Alarie from the QMJHL and Mike Cairns from the OHL. The WHL is generally considered to have a more lenient standard in terms of officiating and suspensions as compared to the other two leagues. Not that the Rockets were using it as an excuse.

“Maybe it’s just that we know our refs more than we know these guys,” said Bowey. “The calls that they made were the right ones. We shouldn’t be getting into those scrums after the whistles and stuff like that and I know that the penalties we got were (deserved).”

KELOWNA, CANADA - JANUARY 7: Leon Draisaitl #29 of Kelowna Rockets warms up against the Vancouver Giants on January 7, 2015 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
KELOWNA, CANADA - JANUARY 7: Leon Draisaitl #29 of Kelowna Rockets warms up against the Vancouver Giants on January 7, 2015 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The biggest setback for the Rockets came at the end of the second period when star forward Leon Draisaitl – a first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers – was given a 10-minute misconduct. At the time, they were only down 2-1, so losing their biggest offensive threat for half of the third period was crippling.

“You can’t take those penalties and that’s on me as well,” said Draisaitl of playing shorthanded. “The refs are a little different here and that’s their decision and that’s how it is. I’m not going to comment on anything else, but I think we have to be more disciplined for sure.”

After the game, the Remparts were happy with the victory, but wary of getting too caught up in the moment despite a strong showing – particularly from defencemen Nikolas Brouillard, Ryan Graves and Matt Murphy – who all scored in the victory along with Erne, who deposited an empty-netter that ended up being the winner.

“That’s huge,” said Graves of the defence scoring. “We’ve got a lot of offence up front, but if the back end can chip in a little bit – I mean it’s not a priority for us - but if we can chip in a little offensively it’ll definitely help our team. ”

Remparts goalie Zach Fucale, who backstopped Team Canada to world junior gold earlier this year, had another solid outing. He finished the night with 26 saves including a flurry at the end of the game when penalty trouble paired with the Rockets pulling Jackson Whistle gave Kelowna a 6-on-3 power play.

“I’ve said it a million times already, but (Saturday) morning we have to forget this one, get better and focus on the next game,” said Fucale, who also won a Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2013.

“I think we proved tonight that we deserved to be here, but at the same time we expect some tight games and these teams are extremely strong and powerful, so we’ve got to be sure we’re ready to face anyone at any time.”

Entering the tournament the Rockets were considered one of the favourites to win the Memorial Cup, especially after they defeated the Brandon Wheat Kings in a surprising sweep of the WHL final. Rockets head coach Dan Lambert was quick to dismiss the pre-tournament label.

“I don’t know how we could be the favourites because we weren’t even the favourites in the Western league (final),” said Lambert. “Everyone was picking Brandon, so I’m not sure how that can work out, but who knows, whatever. That’s from the outside world. We have to worry about ourselves.”

Both Kelowna and Quebec are off on Saturday, with the QMJHL champion Rimouski Oceanic facing the OHL champion Oshawa Generals.

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