The Quebec Remparts spoiled the Memorial Cup opener for the host Kamloops Blazers on Friday by taking advantage of mistakes and odd man rushes, skating to a lopsided win in the first game of the tournament.
Remparts forward James Malatesta scored once in each period to propel the QMJHL champions to an 8-3 victory on Friday night at Sandman Centre.
“I didn’t even see the hat that was thrown on the ice,” Malatesta said about his hat trick celebration.
“[My teammates] made it easy for me tonight. I was just lucky to have two very nice backdoor passes, so all the credit goes to [Justin Robidas].”
The Blazers started strong, powered by an eager crowd through the first five minutes. The building got quiet when Malatesta opened the scoring on the Remparts’ first shot on goal at 7:36 of the opening frame.
Robidas fended off Blazer blueliner Aapo Sarrell the length of the ice and found the QMJHL playoff MVP Malatesta by the left post for the tap in.
“We are a good rush team and we took advantage of it,” Quebec head coach Patrick Roy said after the game. “We scored a few of our goals on some nice backdoor passes.”
Bankier tied the score for the Blazers late in the first period, but Malatesta put the Remparts back on top 65 seconds into the second — and they never looked back.
“I thought that when they scored we lost a little bit of our energy and got deflated, we tried to do a little too much,” Blazers head coach Shaun Clouston said after the game.
“We didn’t manage the puck very well which led to four turnovers, which led to way too many odd man rushes. They did a great job in transition and we knew they were a good transition team — we just got caught.”
The Blazers energy faded in the second. Following Malatesta’s second of the evening, the Remparts threw three more past Dylan Ernst to take a commanding lead.
Nathan Gaucher pumped his first of the tourney on a zone-entry drop pass from Pier-Olivier Roy. Remparts captain Theo Rochette converted a power play marker and Kassim Gaudet scored on a Blazers turnover to take a 5-1 lead into the second intermission.
“I think we have to clear it up. It’s a combination of puck management and we just got excited and had D jumping in, filling above, trying to make plays instead of funnelling up to the net where we had some traffic,” Clouston said.
“We will regroup, get rested. We will have a good day tomorrow and we will be better the next game.”
During the scoring frenzy, Shea Van Olm appeared to register his first of the postseason, when he swatted in a loose puck into the Remparts net. The referees immediately waved it off and were later proved right by video replay, as Connor Levis sent the puck to Van Olm via a hand pass.
Daylan Kuefler stepped into a loose puck late in the secondand Matthew Seminoff redirected an Olen Zellweger shot past William Rousseau to make it a two-goal game, but that was as close as the Blazers would get.
“I saw Zelly at the point and I know he likes to shoot. I got down to the net, tried to get out of his lane and my stick into the lane,” Seminoff said. “I felt like [my stick] was under the bar.”
Rousseau, the 19-year-old Quebec netminder, saved his best for the third period with the game in the balance. Leading 5-3, the Remparts took their second double minor of the evening when Malatesta clipped Kuefler with a high stick. The Trois-Rivières product stopped Seminoff on the doorstep. Seconds later, he got some help from the iron when Fraser Minten rang one of the post.
The biggest of his 27 saves created momentum for the Remparts, who stole the puck and burst out of the zone on an odd-man shorthanded rush. This time, Robidas fed it to Gaudet for his second of the evening.
Another odd-man rush, this time at even strength, saw St. Louis Blues prospect Zachary Bolduc tap the puck past Ernst with nine minutes remaining.
The Blazers netminder yielded eight goals — many on odd man rushes and clean looks — on 33 shots for Kamloops.
“You got to have a short-term memory,” Kamloops captain Logan Stankoven said after the game.
“It’s a tournament style, so obviously it was a tough one tonight, but we will go back to the drawing board tomorrow, watch some video, make some corrections and stay positive.”
The Blazers were wearing special jerseys featuring a poppy on a dream catcher, meant to honour First Nations veterans.
The Blazers will look to bounce back and win their first Memorial Cup game in 28 years when they host the OHL champion Peterborough Petes (0-0) on Sunday afternoon at Sandman Centre. Puck drop is 3 p.m.