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Memorial Cup: Time for Sea Dogs redemption?

Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press

After watching the Sea Dogs end the campaign on a 15-game winning streak, no one could have anticipated the elimination of the Saint John, New Brunswick team in the first round of the Hockey League playoffs. major junior from Quebec.

The Sea Dogs players are hoping to prove their true worth over the next few days at the Memorial Cup tournament.

“Of course, after the loss in the first round, it was a shock for the whole team, admitted defender Jérémie Poirier during a recent telephone interview with The Canadian Press. We were frustrated, disappointed, but after a week or two we started to move on because another tournament was waiting for us.

The Sea Dogs have the luxury of redeeming themselves as the host team to the Canadian Hockey League championship. They will cross swords with the champions of the QMJHL, the OHL and the Western Hockey League: respectively the Shawinigan Cataractes, the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Edmonton Oil Kings.

“We are the only team in Canada to have another chance to prove that we are a winning team and that helped us to recover a little faster from our elimination,” underlined Poirier.

The Sea Dogs would have preferred to enter the Memorial Cup as QMJHL champions and they took the necessary steps to be among the favorites across the country. They were very active before the trade deadline during the holiday season.

The results paid off when business resumed in February. The Sea Dogs are 32-5-1 and have won 26 of their last 28 games.

“They were the best team in the CHL after the holidays,” Cataractes head coach Daniel Renaud said of the Sea Dogs. It is probably the most mature club to participate in the tournament.

Perhaps to fill the abscess after the surprise elimination against the Rimouski Oceanic, the Sea Dogs fired their head coach Gordie Dwyer and turned to Gardiner MacDougall to raise the bar at the Memorial Cup.

MacDougall was working as the head of the University of New Brunswick hockey program before accepting this particular challenge. He will try to guide the Sea Dogs to a second Memorial Cup victory, after their triumph in 2011.

“The training is different, but it also serves as a new motivation,” said Poirier. Some guys can be motivated by that.

“But it doesn’t change a lot of things on the ice. We must continue to work hard and the results will follow,” he concluded.

Cataracts happy to be overlooked

Although they arrive at the Memorial Cup on cloud nine after winning the first title in Cataractes history in 53 years of history, the QMJHL champions believe they are in the underdog chair.

This is not what will displease Renaud.

“In the eyes of all – specialists, analysts and spectators – we are the neglected, insisted Renaud. But that’s okay. It’s been like that since the second round of the playoffs.”

The Cataractes notably had to overthrow the powerful Charlottetown Islanders and the Quebec Remparts to win the President’s Cup.

They will once again have three Canadian junior hockey heavyweights on their way as they hope to lift the Memorial Cup for a second time, following their triumph as the host team in 2012.

“These are two teams with horses or engines in each position, imaged Renaud speaking of the Oil Kings and the Bulldogs. Nobody gets there through the back door. We find the favorite in the West, the favorite in Ontario and the host represents the best team in the country since the holidays.

Led by first-round NHL picks Mavrik Bourque and Xavier Bourgault, the Cataractes proved this spring that no challenge is too big for them. Renaud attributed the successes of his troop to the family spirit and the solidarity within the team.

“I have never seen a group where for each individual, it is as much the team that prevails, where it is the team above all, he affirmed. Everyone was ready to put their ego aside and that is what greatly explains our successes.

The Memorial Cup tournament gets underway on Monday with a duel between the Bulldogs and the Sea Dogs. The Oil Kings and Cataracts will break the ice the next day. The champion will be known on June 29.

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