QUEBEC — If there was lingering pain from losing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final in Game 7 overtime, the Quebec Remparts overcame it on Friday night.
Goals from defencemen Nikolas Brouillard, Matt Murphy and Ryan Graves and an empty-net goal from Adam Erne that ended up as the winner gave the Remparts a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets in the opening game of the Mastercard Memorial Cup.
Their last game at the Pepsi Colisee was when they lost the league title to the Rimouski Oceanic in Game 7 double OT, so to send a crowd of 9,497 that included Prime Minister Stephen Harper home happy was a relief.
“We have a good group and they bounced back well,” said coach Philippe Boucher.
The Remparts used a high-paced transition game and strong goaltending from Zach Fucale to jump on a Kelowna side that looked rusty in its first game in 10 days since sweeping the Western Hockey League final.
But Quebec, which outshot Kelowna 31-29, had some hairy moments at the end.
After Erne’s goal at 18:56 of the third, the Remparts had two players sent off for chippy minor penalties. With goalie Jackson Whistle pulled for an extra attacker and a two-man advantage, Leon Draisaitl scored into an open side with 36 seconds left to play for the Rockets.
Only a big glove save by Fucale with one second left preserved the win for the Remparts.
“As a team we had a good start, that helped me out.” said Fucale. “We haven’t won anything.
“We’ve only got one in the books. We can’t be satisfied with one win. We have to wake up and start all over again.”
Nick Merkley and Gage Quinney also scored for Kelowna, which burned itself with penalties to key players.
That included a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the second frame to star centre Draisaitl after a mix-up with fellow Edmonton Oilers prospect Marc-Olivier Roy.
“You can’t take those penalties and that’s on me as well,” said Draisaitl. “The refs are a little different here and that’s how it is.
“I’m not going to comment on anything else in that, but we have to be more disciplined.”
The Remparts got the first goal when Brouillard, posted at the top of the right circle, took a pass from Vladimir Tkachev and drilled a shot to the top corner at 5:18.
Some dogged work in the corner by Tkachev set up the Remparts’ second goal as Murphy’s point shot dribbled through after Whistle was bumped in front of the net at 13:22 of the second.
The Rockets took advantage of lax play by the home side’s power play as Cole Linaker won a race for the puck in the Quebec end and set up Merkley alone at the far side for a shot that Fucale only got a piece of.
Quebec answered with a short-handed goal of its own 2:08 in the second. Whistle stopped Duclair on a breakaway, but the net was wide open for Graves on the rebound.
Josh Morrissey’s point shot on a power play was tipped in by Quinney at 12:43.
“Our focus and execution weren’t where they need to be at this time of year,” said Kelowna coach Dan Lambert, who also added penalties like the one to Draisaitl made overcoming a deficit harder.
The Rockets now have a two-day break before they play Rimouski on Monday night. The Remparts are back in action Sunday against the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals.
The Generals and the Oceanic see their first action Saturday afternoon.
The CHL announced that for this tournament, the video goal judge can disallow a goal in cases where the play was offside but wasn’t called by the linesmen.