May 21, 2014
LONDON, Ont. — Val-d'Or started the night with star defenceman Guillaume Gélinas in a suit. Then it gave up two quick goals to a foe with a reputation for shutdown hockey.
Yet it beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-3 in double overtime, earning a spot in the Memorial Cup semifinal in front of 8,745 fans at Budweiser Gardens. More pertinently, it grants Val-d'Or an extra day for Gélinas to make it back from the contusion above his left knee that he sustained Monday.
"It was a hard time for me because I wanted to play and I tried very hard to play," Gélinas, now off crutches, said after the game. "It was too hard on one leg.
"I'm going to be fine for Friday; it's only pain," added Gélinas, who was kneed by Guelph's Chadd Bauman on Monday.
Gélinas plays the most minutes on Val-d'Or's blueline and led all Quebec League defencemen in scoring with 92 points in the regular season and another 31. His status was kept under lock and key during the hours before the game, but it soon seemed obvious Val-d'Or wouldn't risk him until it's in an elimination game.
Until Samuel Henley tied it with 4:11 left in the third period, there was a chance that game could be on Thursday against London. (The Knights have to beat Guelph on Wednesday to get into a tiebreaker.)
"That's huge for us him," defenceman Randy Gazzola said. "We knew if he wasn't go there was a big hole to fill, obviously he's the best defenceman in the Q. We're happy with the result."
The Foreurs might have been set back on offence more than defensively, mustering only 14 shots through the first 50 minutes. However, with the Gazzola-Ryan Graves pairing picking up extra shifts and Phil Pietroniro drawing into Gélinas' spot alongside Jérémie Fraser, they maintained a one-goal margin.
"We asked all the forwards to come to help," coach Mario Durocher said. "We asked the forwards to play a safe game. The second, third and OT we were better at helping in the slot. Gazzola, Graves and Fraser and even Phil did a really good job and so did the young kid Olivier Galipeau. They played a big, strong Edmonton team and they did the job."
Pietroniro, a second-year Quebec Leaguer who turns 19 next week, regularly moved between defence and the wing during the season.
"I've always been confident in him to play offence, defence, wherever we need him," Durocher said. "He's a tough kid, really smart, from a good hockey family."
The shots were 38-14 at one point. But after the game got tied, the ice began tilt more toward than Foreurs, who went from just trying to hang around to trading chances with the Oil Kings. The shots were even at 9-9 in the first OT and ended up up 50-33 after Anthony Richard scored on the second shot.
"The team got better and better and obviously the end result is proof of that, Hats off to Edmonton. It could have gone either way. I thought it was going to be over right at the beginning in the first overtime when [Edmonton's Brett] Pollock ripped one of the crossbar."
That's all part of a game of inches. Now Gélinas has a chance to finish what he's helped start, even if it's on only onev good leg. He spent most of night trying to speed up the healing.
"I was in the coach's office, I iced it throughout the game," he said. "I tried to do things that would make me feel better and not think about it."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.