QUEBEC CITY - Hard to believe, but coming into Thursday's tiebreaker game at the Memorial Cup, Anthony Duclair did not have a goal. Zach Fucale wasn't at peak form and the host Quebec Remparts didn't look too threatening. But in beating their fellow Quebec Leaguers from Rimouski 5-2, the Remparts put it all together.
And of course Quebec wants to win the Memorial Cup on home ice, but there's also the added factor of the venue itself: Le Colisee, the arena that Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur and Peter Stastny all called home in the past, will close after this tournament.
“That's always in the back of our minds," said defenseman Ryan Graves. "It's an historic building and we're the home team. We want to be the last team to play here.”
Graves was a big part of the victory. The New York Rangers prospect comes in at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and used his great reach to stymie the Oceanic throughout the night. He played with a lot of jump and created the game's first goal when his powerful point shot was tipped in on the power play by Jerome Verrier.
Duclair, the Arizona Coyotes prospect, finally punished the twine with his first of the tournament, while Tampa Bay pick Adam Erne was a force all night.
Erne, who was listed as questionable before game time, didn't look like he was banged up and in fact, true to his nature, did a lot of banging on the forecheck himself. Not only did he contribute offensively, but he also hit Anthony Chapados so hard that the Rimouski player's helmet popped off.
“In these big games, you need your top players to perform and tonight everyone contributed," Fucale said. "Whether it was a hit, a blocked shot, a good forecheck or a good shift on the penalty kill, everyone helped out.”
And Fucale himself was stellar. One night after getting pulled against the very same Oceanic team, the Montreal Canadiens prospect won the netminding duel against Dallas Stars hopeful Philippe Desrosiers. One of Fucale's finer moments came in recovering from a puckhandling gaffe in time to make a save on dangerous veteran Alexis Loiseau. Unfortunately for Desrosiers, the game swung on a similar mistake made by the Rimouski goaltender - but his ended up in the back of the net.
The Remparts still have a very tough road ahead of them. Tomorrow, they will play their third game in as many nights, facing off in the tournament semifinal against a rested WHL Kelowna squad. If they win that, the undefeated Oshawa Generals of the OHL await.
But right now, the dreams of winning the last junior game ever at Le Colisee are still alive. The hiccups that led to Quebec's 1-2 round robin record are a thing of the past and the big guns are well calibrated. Graves played for Val-d'Or at last year's Memorial Cup in London and he thinks the Remparts are on the right track.
“It takes all you have, that's for sure," he said. "Last year was obviously a different team, but it takes everything you've got and we gave that tonight.”