BRANDON, Man. – The pressure is mounting for the Moncton Wildcats for Tuesday’s MasterCard Memorial Cup game against the Windsor Spitfires. If the Wildcats lose they’ll be the first team eliminated from the tournament, so on Monday, they pulled out all the stops suggesting that injured leading scorer Nicolas Deschamps might be able to suit up for the critical game.
The 20-year-old hasn’t played since Game 5 of their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semi-final series against the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
“If it was just me, I would play (Tuesday),” said Deschamps, who tied for the regular-season scoring title with 39 goals and 57 assists in 64 games. “But we have to sit and talk with all the staff and stuff. I don’t want to make a risky start and get injured again. If I feel good and there’s a chance I won’t hurt it again, I’ll try for sure.”
He said he felt much better in practice on Tuesday morning than he did during his skate the previous day.
Deschamps said he would sit down before the game Tuesday with his agent, Wildcats head coach Danny Flynn and the team’s training staff to decide whether or not he’d be able to suit up for Moncton against the Spitfires. He said his “lower body injury” has been feeling “great” though he thinks he might have trouble with quick stops and starts.
One possibility Deschamps acknowledged was suiting up and playing on the Wildcats power play, where the winger could play on the perimeter and not worry as much about being hit. Monday’s practice was only his second time skating with full-equipment this week, and even then the contact was minimal.
“(There) was a little bit of drills, two-on-one or two-on-two, but no battles in the corner,” said Deschamps, noting contact wouldn’t be a problem. “There’s no risk to injure it on impact, so like I said, it’s day-to-day.”
The idea of the Anaheim Ducks prospect playing wouldn’t have even been discussed had it not been a do-or-die situation for Moncton, the QMJHL champion. The Wildcats opened their tournament with a devastating 5-4 loss to the Calgary Hitmen in which they held a 3-0 lead well into the second period. They played again on Sunday night and were shut out by the host Brandon Wheat Kings 4-0.
“I don’t want to put my career at risk,” said Deschamps. “All the hockey players playing here just want to help their team (with) winning…it’s may be my last game in junior hockey so it’s hard to watch the guys. So if I can join them, I’ll be there for sure.”
His teammates would definitely welcome not only his offence, but his character and leadership on the ice.
“With him in the lineup it gives us three solid lines,” said teammate Kelsey Tessier. “He’s a complete player off and on the ice and having him on the ice gives us a lot more scoring chances.”
The Wildcats won the Quebec title with Deschamps in the stands, so Tessier says the team needs to get back to the distributed scoring that helped them knock off the Saint John Sea Dogs, who were ranked No. 2 in the country. They’ll be spending most of their prep time watching video of Windsor, the defending Memorial Cup champion who have already sealed a berth in Sunday’s final.
“We’re going to study Windsor with a lot of video,” said Tessier. “But it’s all mental, it’s all between the ears, so we have to make sure we come out strong.”
Sunaya Sapurji is the Jr. Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org