Since they won Game 5 of the Presidents' Cup Final to take a 3-2 series lead, the Quebec Remparts have had three opportunities in the last ten days to eliminate the Rimouski Oceanic and claim the QMJHL title for the 2015 season. In the Q playoffs, Rimouski rallied to win Game 6 and Game 7 to win the QMJHL, though both advanced to the Memorial Cup by virtue of Quebec's role as host.
Last night, the two teams met again to close out the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup tournament. The Remparts entered the game with a 1-1 record, and had the opportunity to eliminate the Oceanic, who were 0-2. And for the third time, they proved unable to finish the job, losing 4-0 in what was easily Rimouski's best game of the tournament.
The first period carried the sort of intensity and nastiness you would expect of two teams meeting for the 16th (!!!) time this season; yes, with 8 regular season meetings, a 7-game playoff series and now a Memorial Cup matchup, the two have played 16 times this season.
Rimouski held the advantage of play early, but the game remained scoreless thanks to a couple of wonderful saves from Zach Fucale but Phillippe Desrosiers, back in net after being swapped out for the game against Kelowna, stood tall to match him. The game appeared to be heading to the first intermission deadlocked before Rimouski would strike.
Justin Samson would score with 5:24 remaining in the first period (his first of the tournament), and with just 55 seconds left in the period, Michael Joly would knock one past Fucale. This goal seemed to knock the wind out of the Remparts' sails, giving up a late goal to go down two.
The Oceanic kept up the pace in the third period, as MIchael Joly nearly scored another goal early in the second (which was waved off), but Quebec never seemed able to get back on steady footing. Christopher Clapperton would score on the power-play 5:46 into the period (Frederik Gauthier picking up an assist), and then 12:40 into the period Alexis Loiseau would also score on the powerplay to make the score 4-0 for Rimouski and see Fucale be pulled for Callum Booth.
Fucale certainly did not have a great game, and Sportsnet's Gare Joyce wrote a pretty scathing review of his performance, but 25 shots against in 32 minutes isn't exactly a strong defensive showing from the Remparts. Rimouski would go on to outshoot Quebec 42-27, which means Fucale faced two less shots in about half the game than Phillippe Desrosiers did all night. Rimouski was full marks for their win, and have staved off elimination for another night.
The end of the round robin sees Oshawa finish atop the group with a 3-0 record, advancing directly to Sunday's final. The three other teams all finished the tournament with a 1-2 record. The Kelowna Rockets, by virtue of the best goal differential, are awarded 2nd place, and will advance to the semi-final on Friday night. Which means, that tomorrow night a tiebreak game will take place, once again between the Rimouski Oceanic and the Quebec Remparts.
What's fascinating about this is aside from the fact that they have to go right back to work against each other, there are a lot of competing emotional and physical factors at play. For Quebec, they have to regroup from a demoralizing loss and the chance to advance to the semi-finals with a win, as well as confront once again the fact that they've let all these chances to put Rimouski away slip by. Being the host, Quebec was afforded the best schedule and this is the first time in the tournament they will play on back-to-back nights. On top of all that, they may have to question whether to go back to Fucale, or whether Booth, who began the season as Quebec's starting goalie, will be given the nod in the most important game of the sesaon.
As for Rimouski, they played a near-perfect game against the Remparts, and now have to come back and do it again (whereas Quebec can attempt to make the necessary adjustments), but at some point fatigue may come into play; tonight will represent Rimouski's fourth game at this tournament in six days.