Rockets 4 Oceanic 1
RIMOUSKI, Que. — The Kelowna Rockets couldn’t silence the roaring Colisee de Rimouski crowd, but they kept the home town Oceanic quiet on the ice.
Tyler Myers and Jamie Benn each had a goal and two assists as the Rockets opened the 91st MasterCard Memorial Cup with a dominant 4-1 victory over Rimouski on Friday night.
The Oceanic, battling a gastro-interitis bug in their dressing room and rusty from inactivity since they were ousted from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league playoffs on April 22, could barely get the puck out of their zone in the opening 10 minutes against an intense Kelowna forecheck.
And the outcome was all-but decided when Kelowna killed off a two-man advantage in each of the first and second periods.
“You always want to have a good start and that’s what we did,” said the towering Myers, a Buffalo draft pick who signed a three-year contract with the NHL club this week. “We have to keep doing that, but also make sure we play a full 60 minutes.
“Our power play was good, but I was more impressed with our penalty killing, especially 5-on 3. But we’ve got to be more disciplined.”
Ian Duval and Lucas Bloodoff also scored for the Rockets, who outshot the Oceanic 42-20.
Philippe Cornet ended Mark Guggenberger’s shutout bid with a goal at 13:04 of the third period, rewarding the 4,695 fans who did not stop cheering and banging their noisemakers all night, even as the Rockets overpowered the Oceanic with high-paced, physical hockey.
Rimouski coach Clement Jodoin said that veteran defencemen Maxime Ouimet and Ryan Kavanagh were both sent to hospital with gastro — he said Kavanagh was particularly ill — over the past two days and both were missed by a team that, even if it had its skating legs, was in tough against the Western Hockey League champions.
“Using two young defencemen wasn’t easy, but that’s not an excuse,” said Jodoin. “We were lucky it was only 1-0 after the first period.
“It’s a question of momentum and energy. We had a 5-on-3 and we had chances. If we had scored, the energy would have been different. But we had a second 5-on-3 and didn’t come close to having a chance. But I give credit to the other team and how they played.”
The Rockets were led by Myers and Benn, both members of the Canadian team that won gold at the world junior championship in Ottawa in January.
While they and their teammates peppered Maxime Gougeon, who was outstanding in goal for Rimouski despite the defeat, Guggenberger did stretching exercises during stoppages to keep himself ready.
“I have to stay focused when the play’s in the other end and with this team, that’s more often than not,” he said. “So I have to stay ready and wait my turn.”
The round robin portion of the four-team event continues today (Sportsnet 2:40 p.m.) when the Ontario Hockey League champion Windsor Spitfires face the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League-winning Drummondville Voltigeurs.
Kelowna coach Ryan Huska liked how his team started the game, but decried their inconsistency. He said the Rockets “played well in spurts, but other times we allowed too much room in the neutral zone.
“Down the line, we’ll need to tighten that up.”
The Oceanic next play Sunday against Windsor, while the Rockets have two days off before meeting Drummondville on Monday and Windsor on Tuesday.