The Moncton Wildcats seem like that team which is dangerous because of what it doesn't have.
Coach Danny Flynn's Wildcats, who wrapped up the second Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final in six games with a 7-4 win over Saint John on Monday, have gone about it in an efficient way. They closed out the young Sea Dogs in impressive fashion, outscoring them by an aggreggate 11-2 from the opening puck drop on Saturday through the end of the second period of the series clincher. By that point, they had a five-goal cushion and it was all over but the crying.
The question is how much of that was the Wildcats being brutally efficient and how much of that was the youth of the Sea Dogs, who were down to five defencemen after four-year vet Yann Sauve was ruled out for Game 6 with an injury. What wins at the league level doesn't always play at the MasterCard Memorial Cup, plus Moncton has a tough one right off the hop on Saturday against the Calgary Hitmen.
The Wildcats' run through the QMJHL has been impressive. They managed to beat Saint John despite having Q scoring champ Nicolas Deschamps unable to even skate due to an ankle injury he suffered 2 1/2 weeks ago. Gabriel Bourque, who was named QMJHL playoff MVP, more than picked up the slack, scoring eight of his 19 post-season goals
Moncton doesn't strike people as the most high-octane offensive team (it's apples-to-oranges to compare across leagues, but they did score more goals than Calgary, 276-269). Two defencemen, David Savard (who's still looking for a NHL contact with the Columbus Blue Jackets) and Mark Barberio, were actually first and third on the team in regular-season scoring. (Keep in mindBourque and Deschamps were airlifted in mid-season.)
However, if you believe you can divine a team's resolve from its ability to winmanage to do very well living on the margins, thanks to a deep defence corps and a solid 'tender in overage netminder Nicola Riopel, who figures promimently in the Philadephia Flyers' future plans.
They also have a major stabilizer behind the bench in Flynn, who has a long-as-your-arm coaching resume. He was the assistant coach under Ted Nolan on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 1993 Memorial Cup-winning team and the Wildcats' first QMJHL title in 2006, and in between, piloted the St. Francis Xavier X-Men to the CIS University Cup. (The University Cup is an exercise in resiliency, since it requires a team to win three games in four days.)
They're also a piece of work in terms of how they were built. Name another team whose roster includes players from seven provinces and territories.
Point being, the Wildcats probably are the sleeper in the tournament, but do not sleep on them.
No QMJHL team has won a Memorial Cup played in the west since Cornwall did so in 1980, when it was a three-team event. However, the Val-d'Or Foreurs (2001) and Gatineau Olympiques (2004) both had one-goal losses in the final.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Moncton Wildcats