Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan/QMJHL
Two teams remaining, a dozen wins down, four to go. The top two teams in the league and a showdown in every aspect looms for the QMJHL Finals.
Just a week and a half ago, the Halifax Mooseheads saw their season on life support falling down 2-0 to Sherbrooke and without league MVP and scoring champion Jordan Dumais.
They found another gear and a dose of killer instinct to take advantage of a laid back Phoenix team.
In the final four games of the series, Halifax outscored the Phoenix 16-4.
Paradoxically, Halifax won game six 1-0, marking back-to-back shutouts for Mathis Rousseau en route to punching their ticket for game one at Centre Videotron in Quebec City.
Rattling off four straight wins is not only symbolic of their season, where this group has responded when they have needed to the most, but for a team with championship aspirations, they embody the “bend but don’t break” stature required to face the adversity this group has faced.
Now, they face their stiffest test of the season, a very fitting matchup for the QMJHL Finals.
The Quebec Remparts, yet to lose a game in the 2023 playoffs, will bring a strong level of urgency and intensity they have brought all season long.
Patrick Roy has a plethora of weapons at his disposal that makes this team impossible to win the matchup game against, even with the last change on home ice.
Boasting four elite centres down the lineup in Zachary Bolduc, Justin Robidas, Nathan Gaucher and Theo Rochette, they can take it any way you want to, and will make you pay for any and all mistakes made in the defensive zone.
This team simply does not allow easy goals. With a defensive group led by Evan Nause and an MVP calibre William Rousseau between the pipes, the goals Halifax have been able to score throughout the season will get increasingly tough to acquire.
Rousseau posted a 1.38 goals-against-average in the regular season with a strong .929 save percentage and has been even better in the playoffs, allowing more than two goals four times, two of which against the high-octane “score at will” Olympiques.
The season series between these squads went to Halifax, who won both meetings, albeit both in one goal games including one in a shootout.
Halifax: Josh Lawrence has been the key to unlocking this team’s potential since acquiring him back in November. All due respect to Alex Doucet and his 57 goal campaign, but Lawrence has taken his game to a whole new level and has become a key cog in defensive zone faceoffs and both special teams.
Lawrence will be Sylvain Favreau’s safety valve in the big moments of this series as thw games get tighter. He will be leaned upon in all situations and will look to counteract the matchup advantage the Remparts have with their incredibly deep lineup.
Quebec: Justin Robidas was the big deadline acquisition for the Remparts to complete their incredible gauntlet of centre depth. After a slight underwhelming end to his regular season, the centre has put on a show in these playoffs with 19 points on 12 games.
He continues to produce in the big moments and will continue to get those looks, even against a mobile and healthy Mooseheads blueline. Slowly becoming one of Roy’s favourite matchup pieces, look for him to produce in big moments and potentially give the Remparts that final boost en route to an appearance at the Memorial Cup.
Both teams have shown they have the resilience and formula to get the job done to hoist the Gilles-Courteau Trophy.
It feels as if these teams have been on a collision course to meet in this moment all season given how close their previous matchups had been.
One of these teams will put it all together for glory, and the other could be left to wonder where they went wrong. Everything is on the line now, and it is a matter of who can put the pieces to the puzzle together the fastest to book their accommodations in Kamloops.