Nashville pick Justin Kirkland was just one of many Rockets who pierced the Remparts in what turned out to be a very bitter final game for the Quebec franchise at Le Colisee.
Quebec scored first, but Kelowna scored often and that’s why the Rockets will face the Oshawa Generals in the Memorial Cup final.
Kelowna’s big guns had a field day in the 9-3 victory, with Nashville prospect Justin Kirkland leading the way with two goals and four points. Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton), Rourke Chartier (San Jose) and Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg) scored on pro-caliber shots themselves and at times it appeared as though Kelowna was playing chess while Quebec played checkers. Countless odd-man rushes and crisp passes doomed the Remparts.
The Kelowna boys were diplomatic after the game, however, noting that the Remparts were running on fumes thanks to back-to-back games against Rimouski just prior.
“We knew playing three games in three nights is no easy task,” Kirkland said. “Something we talked about before was getting pucks in behind their ‘D’ and then getting on them and that’s what we did. I was happy with the way our guys managed the puck.”
It wasn’t just ugly on the scoreboard however. Once the Remparts fell behind by a couple goals and the penalty calls weren’t going in their favor, the Quebec crowd got surly, bombarding the ice with bottles and other trash during the second period.
“I definitely ducked a little bit,” Kirkland said. “That was something else; I’ve never seen that before.”
The anger towards the officials was obvious and at the end of the frame, the refs and linesmen took a little too long to skate off, as if they were making a statement to their haters in the stands.
And it was a bit of a shame that Remparts goalie Zach Fucale (Montreal), playing in the last game of his illustrious junior career, got shelled by the Rockets. The world junior gold medallist was in net for all nine goals, a decision that he made himself. Remparts coach Philippe Boucher said that Quebec’s goalie coach checked with Fucale between the second and third period, when it was 5-1, but Fucale still thought his squad had a shot.
Boucher also checked in during a TV timeout in the third, once a couple more had gone in.
“He really wanted to stay in and I was OK with that,” Boucher said. “He had a great junior career and I’m proud of what he did.”
Because this ended up being the last Remparts game ever at Le Colisee (they move to the new Videotron Centre next season), there was a great “Let’s go, Remparts!” chant from the crowd as time expired. The players got together with raised sticks at center ice and the passion was obvious.
In the bowels of the rink, arena workers were having trouble keeping their emotions in check – one member of the ice crew quietly sobbed while sitting inside a net near the parked Zamboni – and the players were no different in post-game interviews. It was raw and it was real.
But there is one more game to be played at the old barn and it will feature the two best teams in the tournament. The high-powered Rockets will take on the physically punishing Oshawa Generals in what promises to be an elite pairing.
“It’s gonna be a battle,” Morrissey said. “We didn’t have our best game when we played them last time, but what an opportunity. It’s the biggest stage for us in junior and for some of us guys on our last kick at the can, there would be no better way than to finish on top.”
Sixty minutes left in Quebec (more if needed) for the title. It all goes down Sunday.