QUEBEC CITY — Michael Dal Colle admitted the obvious. Michael McCarron didn’t.
Zach Fucale was the star of the show on Sunday, making turning aside 45 shots for Quebec as the Remparts fell 5-4 in overtime to Oshawa. The Generals outshot the Remparts 50-25, with Fucale somehow getting shut out of the three stars.
“Yeah, he’s good enough too,” Oshawa’s Dal Colle said when asked if, at some point during the game, he thought Fucale would steal the game for Quebec. “He’s an unbelievable goalie. He’s been to the world juniors twice, so we knew we had to get traffic in front of him and we did that.”
McCarron, who scored the game’s opening goal, had a different viewpoint than his teammate.
“No,” he said on thinking Fucale could possibly steal the game. “I thought we controlled the game. Fifty shots to 25 or whatever it was. We controlled the whole game, I thought. We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, which normally don’t happen. So I thought we controlled the whole game.”
Oshawa rooting for Rimouski
Without doubt, the Generals (2-0) will be rooting for the Oceanic (0-1) to defeat the Kelowna Rockets (0-1) today. If Rimouski wins, Oshawa will advance to Sunday’s championship game, regardless if the Rockets beat the Generals on Tuesday.
Sunday’s game was also the third consecutive one-goal contest to open the 2015 Memorial Cup. The last time a championship opened with three straight one-goal outcomes was 2008.
It seems Kelowna’s playoff theme this spring is: Let them score first, then we’ll rally. While the Rockets failed to rally in their 4-3 loss to Quebec, they did give up the game’s first goal.
That, says Rockets head coach Dan Lambert, isn’t cause for concern.
“If you’ve seen us play throughout the playoffs, gosh, not that it’s our game plan, but we’ve given up the first goal an awful lot,” said Lambert. “So it seems like often we have started a little slow. Was I surprised that Quebec as came as hard as they did and we were a little bit on our heels? Not really. We would like to change that? Yeah, we would. Unfortunately, we’ve been a little bit of a wait-and-see team throughout the playoffs.”
“I don’t think we played our game. We certainly didn’t play our best,” said Rockets centre Leon Draisaitl. “That can’t happen at a tournament like that. It gets to you after a while; I think we saw that (Friday). We weren’t sharp right off the bat. They scored one early and they get the crowd into it. It’s hard because every team is a good hockey team at this tournament, that’s for sure. We have to make sure we’re ready right from the start and just stick to our game plan.”
So far, this tournament has been ridiculously close. In Friday’s opener, the Rockets came close to tying the game in the final seconds. On Saturday, Rimouski also came close to tying the game in the final seconds. With no clear-cut No. 1 team, anyone of the four can wind up winning.
“All the teams here are very capable of manufacturing scoring chances, even shorthanded,” said Lambert. “I know (the Oceanic) pulled their goalie, but they were able to manufacture something that could have lent them the game a little bit. It was a good hockey game; they showed a lot of character coming back from 2-0 early in the game. The next thing you know, you blink and it’s 2-2, similar to the Anaheim Ducks’ game (on Saturday night).”
Don’t be surprised if Rimouski starts back-up Louis-Philip Guindon over starter Philippe Desrosiers, who gave up 4 goals on 37 shots in the Oceanic’s 4-3 loss to Oshawa on Saturday.
“They’ve gone back and forth throughout the playoffs, from what we understand,” Lambert said of Rimouski shuttling between their two goaltenders. “So, yeah, we have video and they are, again, both very capable of winning hockey games, obviously. They’re both good.”
Of all the players at this year’s Memorial Cup, Draisaitl by far attracts the most attention. Call it junior star power.
“It’s probably a role that he’s had throughout his life, playing in Germany,” Lambert replied when asked if Draisaitl is comfortable in the role of being Kelowna’s star player, that he’s carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders. “In Prince Albert, he was the go-to guy for a couple of years there. He’s been a key guy for Germany at different levels, whether it was world juniors in the past or as a youngster. I would think he’s comfortable with it.”
Lambert added that of all his players, Draisaitl has to play penalty-free. That wasn’t the case in Friday’s game, where he was tagged with a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the second period. All told, the Rockets were handed seven minor penalties and three misconducts.
“We can’t have him sit 10 minutes in the penalty box,” said Lambert. “I think there’s not a person in the world who feels worse about it than Leon Draisaitl. He’s very accountable. You learn from those mistakes, and is it a call that would have been called (in the WHL)? Or in the National Hockey League for that matter? Who knows? But it was a choice that the referees made and they have the right; they have the stripes, they can make those choices.”
Asked if he’s addressed his players that referees aren’t tolerating rough play between the whistles, Lambert said “I think it was quite clear from the four 10-minute misconducts that they gave.”
All Oilers, all the time
Drafted by Edmonton and having played 37 games in the NHL this past season, Draisaitl can’t avoid them: Questions about the Oilers, or answers involving the Oilers.
Example: Why didn’t you play at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship in Toronto and Montreal this year?
“That wasn’t really my decision, to be honest,” said Draisaitl. “It was the Oilers’ decision. I don’t want to comment too much on it. It’s their decision and I’m happy with whatever would have happened.”
Follow-up question: Were you disappointed? Because Germany was relegated.
“It’s never fun to see your country go down, especially your age-group. It’s kind of funny, all my best friends are on that team. I’ve played with all those guys for a number of years. It’s not easy to see something like that, so, obviously it’s disappointing. I would have loved to help them out a little bit at least. But at the same time, I played in the NHL, and that’s a kid’s dream. There’s nothing bad I have to say about that.”
Question: What about the staff changes the Oilers have made?
“I think they’ve done a great job so far, hiring (Peter) Chiarelli (as president of hockey operations and GM) and (Todd) McLellan (as head coach). They’re two very well-known people and they’re very experienced. I think it’ll help the organization a lot.”
Enjoying La Belle Province
Without doubt, the Memorial Cup is a pressure-packed tournament, one filled with extreme swings. The Rockets, though, are trying to enjoy the Quebec experience when they’re not at the rink, sparse as that time may be.
“That’s something that’s been a lot different,” Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby said of the language barrier. “I know I had a little trouble just ordering food at Subway and stuff; it’s definitely different. It’s something you have to get used to, though, if you’re going to play hockey.”
Added Draisaitl: “It’s a beautiful city and it’s a perfect spot to host this tournament.”