Memorial Cup | Sylvain Favreau and his Voltigeurs are ready to take on the challenge

The head coach of the Voltigeurs de Drummondville, Sylvain Favreau, is aware of the challenge awaiting his team on Friday, when the 104e edition of the Memorial Cup.

“People say it, it’s one of the hardest tournaments to win in hockey,” Favreau said during a videoconference bringing together the four tournament coaches in Saginaw. For me, we approach it the same way we did in the regular season and in the playoffs. »

The Saginaw Spirit, host team, the Moose Jaw Warriors and the London Knights are the three other teams participating in the tournament this year.

For the first time in Canadian Hockey League (CHL) history, there was a sweep in the final of the Maritimes Quebec Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

This will be a fourth participation in the Memorial Cup for the Voltigeurs, after the 1988, 1991 and 2009 editions. However, the Voltigeurs have never won top honors, nor taken part in the final of this tournament.

This year, Favreau’s troop obtained its pass by sweeping the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. It was a second QMJHL title for the Voltigeurs, after that of 2009.

Although winning the Gilles-Courteau Trophy brought some celebrations, Favreau clarified that they were not of long duration, while the Voltigeurs will play their first game Saturday at 4 p.m., against the Knights.

“We took a few days to celebrate,” said the head coach. I think it’s important to celebrate victories. We’ve worked hard for 68 games to get to this point, so it’s important to celebrate them. But it is certain that after two days, we closed the books on the Gilles-Courteau Trophy and we reoriented ourselves towards the challenge represented by the Memorial Cup. »

Favreau added that his players were focused during training in recent days.

“The state of mind and concentration are there among the players. We had a good week of training. I saw that the group was dynamic and focused on the ice. »

Ethan Gauthier (Tampa Bay Lightning), Alexis Gendron (Philadelphia Flyers) and Vsevolod Komarov (Buffalo Sabres) are among the Voltigeurs’ key players. Komarov, Mikael Huchette and Kassim Gaudet won the tournament with the Quebec Remparts last year.

The team can also count on its goaltender Riley Mercer, who finished the QMJHL playoffs with a goals against average of 1.89 and an efficiency rate of .934. Mercer was in front of his team’s net for the Voltigeurs’ 16 victories in their conquest of the Gilles-Courteau trophy.

“Riley has made progress throughout the season,” said Favreau. I’ve said this many times, but any time you have a good person on your team who works really hard, that’s a good ingredient for success. »

The Knights lifted the cup in 2005 and 2016. They are participating in the tournament for the sixth time, the most in the country in the last 20 years. Dale Hunter’s team only lost two games in the OHL playoffs.

They have 10 players drafted into the NHL, including Easton Cowan (Toronto Maple Leafs), who led the CHL with 34 points during the playoffs, including 10 goals.

The Spirit are making their first appearance in the Memorial Cup, returning to the United States for the first time in 26 years. The Memorial Cup has not been held in the United States for 26 years.

This season, Spirit defenseman Zayne Parekh led CHL defensemen with 96 points, including 33 goals. Their center Owen Beck was a second round choice of the Montreal Canadiens two years ago. He was traded to the Chris Lazary-led Spirit in January.

The Warriors won the WHL championship for the first time in club history. For Mark O’Leary’s squad, this is also their first participation in the Memorial Cup.

The last triumph of a WHL club dates back to 2014, when the Edmonton Oil Kings won everything.

The final will be played on June 2. The tournament will return to Quebec next year, in Rimouski.

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