In just its seventh year of existence, the Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin is going to the TELUS Cup.
With a 5-1 win over the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François on April 4, the Phénix capped off a five-game victory in the Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec championship series and clinched the Quebec Region berth in the National Midget Championship.
“It was our objective since the beginning of the season (to play at the TELUS Cup),” said Collège Esther-Blondin head coach Paulin Bordeleau told 98.5 FM following the series. “Our goal was always to win the Canadian championship and in order to do so we will have seven games to play.”
Collège Esther-Blondin will take the ice in Leduc, Alta., looking to keep one of Canadian hockey’s most impressive streaks alive – every Quebec champion since 1989 has reached the semifinals of the TELUS Cup, a run of 23 consecutive years.
Despite that streak, it has been eight years since the LHMAAAQ champion has played for the national title (College Charles-Lemoyne in 2004) and 11 since the league’s last gold medal (Ste-Foy in 2001).
The Phénix definitely has the big-game experience to compete on the national stage – four players (Daniel Audette, Laurent Dauphin and Frédérik Gauthier, Maxime Gravel) were part of the Quebec entry that finished sixth at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last winter, and three (Alexandre Caron-Roy, Gauthier, Gravel) helped Quebec win the silver medal at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.
The experience undoubtedly helped Collège Esther-Blondin cruise through the LHMAAAQ playoffs, losing just two of 13 games and earning eight of its 11 wins by at least three goals.
After sweeping Amos in the quarter-finals and taking out Trois-Rivières in the semis, winning the last four games after dropping Game 1, the Phénix matched up with a Blizzard team that had just pulled off the unlikeliest of victories, knocking off top-seeded Collège Antoine-Girouard 4-3 in a series that saw the visiting team win each of the seven games.
Collège Esther-Blondin grabbed an early series lead on home ice before the Blizzard picked up its first victory with a wild 7-6 win in Game 3, a game in which the Phénix erased deficits of 2-0, 4-1 and 5-4 to take a 6-5 lead before Séminaire Saint-François scored twice in the final seven minutes for a 7-6 win.
A 7-4 victory in Game 4 sent Collège Esther-Blondin home with a chance to clinch the series, and it responded by taking a 4-0 lead after 40 minutes en route to a 5-1 win and the Coupe Jimmy Ferrari.
“At the beginning of the (fifth) game, we were confident, but not too much, because we respected the other team,” said Phénix captain Dominic Talbot-Tassi. “Since they were trailing in the series, they didn’t want to give up too many chances. When we took the lead, we felt them giving up.”
Dauphin picked up playoff MVP honours after posting 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 13 games, while Gauthier (13-11-24) and Audette (7-16-23) also reached the 20-point plateau during the postseason.
ROAD TO THE TELUS CUP: PHÉNIX DU COLLEGE ESTHER-BLONDIN
Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec