Last night was the end of Frederik Gauthier's major junior career, and it was at the hands of those players he helped deny a championship to weeks ago. Perhaps this was fresh in the minds of the Remparts fans, maybe it was the Thursday night schedule, maybe it was the Oceanic shutting out the Remparts one night earlier 4-0, but 4,000 less people showed up to the tie breaker game, deciding who will play tonight (for the third night in a row) to decide Oshawa's opponent in the Memorial Cup final. 6,533 out of 15,176 seats sold for the host teams most important game of the tournament.
Maybe this was motivation. Their own fans had forsaken them. They needed to prove themselves, show that they weren't another host that didn't deserve to be there. The Remparts open scoring with Jérome Verrier's first tournament goal near the end of the first and the two teams traded goals through the second period. The Remparts took control of the game and Marc-Olivier Roy scored goal #5 midway through the third and there was no looking back. Zach Fucale played like Habs fans wanted him to, stopping 30 of 32 and denying the future Maple Leaf of another championship.
The Memorial Cup can be a bitter sweet time for a player. You have an opportunity very few Junior players get by just participating. You're playing to get that he elusive trophy, the one that you hold over your head to proclaim you and your teammates were the best of the western hemisphere, and when you don't, when you have to play that one extra game just for the chance to finish third and can't close it, it's a bitter ending, worse than ending your career in the league playoffs. You were so close. Gauthier has the QMJHL Championship to wear proudly, but thats like hanging a banner for winning your conference.
Gauthier's junior career began in the 12-13 season, and he played all 3 of his QMJHL time with Rimouski. He represented Quebec at the World U17 championships in 2012, Canada at the U18's in 2013, and Canada at the U20's (World Jr's) in '14 & '15, capturing Gold this year. Never the highly offensive player, Gauthier displayed the kind of hard work mentality the Maple Leafs front office desired and was picked 21st overall at the 2013 NHL Draft.
While his selection will be debated with Maple Leafs fans until his debut on the big team, and will forever be compared to those picked after him, his time as a giant among children is over. This fall he'll report to the Toronto Marlies, and pending a complete failure of a training camp, won't return to the Gaspe for his overage season, but will come to the big city, taking the next step in his hockey career.
The Marlies are heading in a new direction, with new leadership and vision. Seen as strictly a training ground from now on, the Ricoh Coliseum will be the place to see who can handle top line duties, not automatically slot a player into the 4C role because "that's where we see him in the NHL". Can Gauthier step up his offensive game or will he continue to be a defensive centre, one you want out there with a lead, not when trying to gain one.
We'll see this September, but for now it's adieu, Frédérik.