The Edmonton Oil Kings came into the Memorial Cup as the favorites with an absolutely loaded roster with star power at every position and depth that rivals any team in junior hockey. The Shawinigan Cataractes weren’t even a top-five team in the QMJHL but went on a magical run to win the President’s Cup and get into the Memorial Cup as the Quebec league’s champion.
The magic didn’t end as they opened up their run at junior hockey’s most coveted trophy. Leaning on their stars as they have all playoff long, Shawinigan battled back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to upset the Oil Kings, controlling the pace of play in the second half of the game. With the Cataractes' victory on day two and the host Saint John Sea Dogs upsetting the Hamilton Bulldogs on day one, the QMJHL is showing that they aren’t here just for fun.
First Star: RW Xavier Bourgault, Shawinigan Cataractes
Bourgault was an offensive machine in this game. Had it not been for Edmonton netminder Sebastian Cossa’s play, the Cataractes star very likely could have had a massive night that wasn’t limited two just the two points. The Edmonton Oilers’ prospect was dashing through the Oil Kings' defense and evading pressure with his agility and impressive puck control, cutting to the net and generating high-danger scoring chances with frequency. He tied for the team lead with five shots on goal and had a few more that just missed the net as he tried picking the corner.
Bourgault tied the game at two with a well-placed shot about halfway through the second period thanks to his innate ability to fade into pockets of space to open up a shot for himself. He also sent Mavrik Bourque into the offensive zone which helped set up the game-winner. He also set up Bourque for a breakaway on an excellent feed late in the game after stealing the puck in the neutral zone that would have sealed the game late in the third period.
The Cataractes winger was a true game breaker in this contest, something the Cataractes needed if they wanted to take down the goliath that the Edmonton Oil Kings were made out to be coming into the Memorial Cup. He will need to continue his high-end offensive chance generation to help Shawinigan capture their second Memorial Cup in team history.
Second Star: C Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan Cataractes
The other half of that dynamic duo was almost as good. Bourque was all over the ice, putting his high energy and work ethic on display all night long. The Cataractes captain is an exceptionally skilled playmaker who has the ability to elude defenders and place the puck on the tape of his teammates with proficiency. Bourque's shiftiness was on display on the Bourgault goal as he jumped out of the way of a check and pushed the puck over to a teammate in the process. Plays like that are the difference between an offensive chance and a defensive lapse.
Late in the game, Bourque was consistently outworking the Oil Kings below the goal line, getting in on the forecheck and out-skilling his opponents with his stick while also staying strong enough on his feet that he is able to push the defender off the puck. The game-winning goal was an excellent display of that. Bourque gets in behind the net, disrupts the puck, and sends it out front to an attacking Olivier Nadeau who buried the puck to give the Cataractes their first lead since scoring the opening goal. A bit of an untimely penalty and inconsistency in the faceoff dot kept him from securing the night’s first star.
Third Star: G Sebastian Cossa, Edmonton Oil Kings
In a losing effort, the Edmonton netminder had himself quite a game despite the four goals allowed. His team was a revolving door at times, allowing the Cataractes to attack the middle with regularity and providing fairly little in terms of zone entry prevention. He helped keep the CHL’s best power play to one goal on five attempts and his ability to make the spectacular save was on full display in this one.
The Red Wings prospect was the primary reason that the Oil Kings were close in this game at times. Cossa utilized all of his 6-foot-6 frame to stretch out and make saves on breakaways and odd-man rushes. Late in the game, Cossa made a save on a great connection between Bourgault and Bourque, where Bourque was sent in all alone from the top of the circles with speed. Cossa faced 35 shots, 23 of which were from the home plate area. Cossa had a difficult workload and the saves he made likely deserved a better outcome than a 4-3 loss in which his numbers may not have looked good, but he certainly looked like his typically stellar self.