RIMOUSKI, Que. – The Windsor Spitfires are headed to the MasterCard Memorial Cup final.
Adam Henrique banged in a rebound 4:31 into overtime to lift the Ontario Hockey League champions to a hard-earned 3-2 victory over the Drummondville Voltigeurs in Friday’s semifinal to secure a spot in Sunday’s title game against the Kelowna Rockets.
The Spitfires outshot the injury and flu-plagued Voltigeurs 47-21 at the Colisee de Rimouski, including 16-2 in the third period and 6-1 in overtime, but were thwarted time and again by goaltender Marco Cousineau before Henrique ended the drama with his third goal of the tournament.
“We were all over them and we had a few chances early in OT and we just had to keep to our game plan and keep it simple,” said Henrique, a New Jersey Devils prospect. ‘“Cousineau’s been great through the whole tournament.
“We knew we’d have to pump lots of shots at him. He’s got a great glove and he made lots of big saves for them.”
The Spitfires got possession of the puck after a faceoff in the Drummondville zone, but Cousineau stopped shots from Henrique and Taylor Hall before the veteran centre finally fired one into the open goal.
“I got lucky enough to get a rebound in front with an open net,” added Henrique. “I had to bear down because Cousineau has thrown his glove back and stopped a lot of those.”
Hall and Ben Shutron scored in a first period that was all Windsor, while the opportunistic Voltigeurs tied it in the second with goals from Samson Mahbod and Yannick Riendeau.
Now Windsor will face a Kelowna team that has not played since it lost 2-1 to the Spitfires in its final round robin game on Tuesday.
“Everyone’s excited,” said Henrique, whose team began the tournament 0-2 and now has taken three must-win games in the row _ the win over Kelowna, a 6-4 win over Rimouski in the tiebreaker game and the win over Drummondville.
“It’ll be a tough test, but everyone will get some rest (on Saturday) and that will be good.”
Drummondville beat Windsor in overtime in the round-robin portion of the tournament, but the Spitfires thoroughly dominated play in the semifinal.
Cousineau pondered about what might have been for the Voltigeurs, who won the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title this season after finishing last in the league a year ago. But after dominating all season, they had little energy left for the Memorial Cup.
“I’m disappointed we lost, but we had injuries, we were hit by a flu,” said Cousineau, an Anaheim Ducks prospect. “I think we gave what we had to give. The rest we couldn’t do anything about.”
A down side to Windsor’s win was that defenceman Jesse Blacker left the game 1:42 into the second period favouring his left leg after a hit from behind by Madbod, who was also injured on the play.
Coach Bob Boughner said Blacker has a lower body injury and may not be able to play on Sunday.
“We’ll see how is after a day’s rest,” said Boughner.
The Windsor game plan was to get a lot of shots early on a Drummondville squad weakened by illness and injury. They accomplished that by firing 16 times at the Voltigeurs in the opening 20 minutes.
The flashy Hall, slated to go high in the 2010 NHL draft, finished an impressive five-man rush by banging home his own rebound at 15:47 and Shutron was left unmarked to take a pass, step into the slot and fire a wrist shoot past a screened Cousineau at 18:02.
The Voltigeurs kept the puck in the Windsor end to start the second period and Riendeau slipped a pass from behind the net to Mahbod for a one-timer that beat Windsor goalie Andrew Engelage at 1:13.
Just 29 seconds later, Mahbod was called for boarding Blacker, but the Spitfires failed to convert.
At 14:51, Mark Cundari slapped the puck down the ice while killing a penalty and it went over the Rimouski Colisee’s low glass at the far end of the rink for a delay of game call.
Playing with a 5-on-3 man advantage, Riendeau knocked home Mike Hoffman’s point shot as Drummondville tied the game 2-2.
Windsor’s Dale Mitchell, who scored three straight goals early in the third period of a 6-4 comeback win over Rimouski on Thursday, was sent in on a breakaway by Hall at 4:33 of the third but was thwarted by Cousineau’s pad save.
“I think we did pretty well in this tournament,” said Drummondville defenceman Dmitry Kulikov, a possible top-10 pick in next month’s NHL draft. “Even if we had a couple of guys injured and a couple of guys sick, we kept fighting.
“We didn’t give up, but everyone wants to win and everyone feels sad right now.”
The 2009 tournament marks the first time since 1988 that neither of the QMJHL teams are in the final when the tournament is held in Quebec. That year, Medicine Hat beat Windsor in the Spitfires’ only previous Memorial Cup appearance.
Notes: It turned out that Drummondville forward Maxime Frenette’s ankle was not broken after all, as coach Guy Boucher feared after the game on Wednesday. Boucher said it was a hairline fracture and he was able to play against Windsor. . . Kelowna defenceman Tyson Barrie’s father Len, a co-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has arrived to cheer on his son. He came two days after former Rimouski Oceanic and current Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier visited.