From the Verdun Leafs at the first Wrigley Cup in 1974 to the Gouverneurs de Ste-Foy at the 2001 Air Canada Cup, Quebec teams have long found success at Canada’s National Midget Championship.
Twelve national titles in the tournament’s first 40 years puts the province second on the all-time list, just one behind the 13 won by teams from Saskatchewan.
But since the Gouverneurs were crowned national champions 13 years ago, teams from the west have owned that title, with just one gold medallist, Sudbury in 2008, coming from east of Manitoba.
It’s by far the longest drought for Quebec; before 2001, teams from La Belle Province had never gone more than four years without being the country’s best.
This year, the challenge falls to the Grenadiers de Châteauguay, who are well aware of just how long it has been since Quebec was the home of the TELUS Cup.
“At the beginning of the year when we set our goals, our goal wasn’t to win our league, it was to go and try to bring the TELUS Cup back to Quebec,” head coach Bruce Richardson told the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. “It’s been awhile that it hasn’t come here and we want to represent Québec as well as possible.”
Battling through injuries in the regular season – including missing both of their goaltenders for the better part of two months – the Grenadiers finished their schedule in fourth place thanks to the No. 1 offence in the Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec.
Châteauguay swept aside Collège Notre-Dame in the preliminary round, but faced a tougher test against Trois-Rivières in the quarter-finals; the first three games of the best-of-seven all went to overtime, with the Grenadiers winning all three before dispatching the Estacades in five games.
Winners of three of four road games through the first two rounds, the Grenadiers continued their strong play away from home in the semifinals, winning the first two games in Magog en route to a six-game win over the Cantonniers, sending Châteauguay to the LHMAAAQ final for the first time since winning it all in 2006.
Facing off with the Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin for a spot in the TELUS Cup, the Grenadiers and Phénix split the first six games, with the visiting team winning each and every one.
On the road for Game 7, Châteauguay found itself in an early hole, trailing 2-0 just 2:52 in.
“It was 2-0 after two minutes, but we started well. They got two shots and they scored, but I know with the offence that we have (we could come back),” Richardson said. “When I called the timeout I said: ‘We’ve been waiting for this moment for eight months. We’ve been working hard. There’s 57 minutes left in the game we’re not going to quit right now.’ The guys bared with it, kept digging, kept working and they got one back and got the momentum back.”
They got more than one, in fact. The Grenadiers led before the end of the first period and scored six of the game’s next seven goals in a 6-4 victory that clinched their second trip to the TELUS Cup.
Chateauguay won a bronze medal in its lone previous appearance, in 2006.
HOW THEY GOT TO MOOSE JAW
Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec
Preliminary round: defeated Collège Notre-Dame 3-0 (2-1 2OT, 6-3, 4-1)
Quarter-final: defeated Trois-Rivières 4-1 (5-4 OT, 5-4 OT, 5-4 2OT, 3-5, 6-0)
Semifinal: defeated Magog 4-2 (4-3 OT, 6-3, 4-6, 4-2, 1-4, 4-0)
LHMAAAQ championship: defeated Collège Esther-Blondin 4-3 (10-2, 3-1, 2-4, 2-5, 4-2, 1-6, 6-4)
Regular Season Record: 25-16-1 (4th in LHMAAAQ)
Goals For: 161 (1st in LHMAAAQ)
Goals Against: 136 (11th in LHMAAAQ)
Longest Winning Streak: 8 (Oct. 4-25)
Top 3 Scorers:
- Brandon McCulloch – 20G 34A 54P (3rd in LHMAAAQ)
- Justin Samson – 22G 26A 48P (6th in LHMAAAQ)
- Alexandre Payusov – 18G 27A 45P (13th in LHMAAAQ)
Playoff Record: 15-6
Goals For: 87
Goals Against: 64
Top 3 Scorers:
- Brandon McCulloch – 9G 21A 30P
- Justin Samson – 10G 17A 27P
- Alexandre Payusov – 12G 14A 26P
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2006 – Patriotes de Châteauguay | bronze medal | 3-4-0 | 17GF 31GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
power forward … goal scorer … quick stick … nose for the net … great confidence … a presence on the ice … provides leadership … good puck control … competes at a high level … strong skater
highly skilled … good skater … very good edge control … soft hands … sees the ice incredibly well … plays with confidence … high level of hockey sense … makes very good decisions with the puck
smart … finesse player … dangerous on the power play … best from top of the circles in … nice touch … quick hands and feet … reads the play well … good anticipation … offensive minded
QMJHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Justin Samson – Rimouski 2012 (3rd round, 55th overall)
Jean-Sébastien Taillefer – Halifax 2013 (5th round, 91st overall)
Samuel Laberge – Rimouski 2013 (6th round, 95th overall)
Ryan Coughlin – Gatineau 2013 (8th round, 134th overall)
Étienne Montpetit – Val-d’Or 2013 (8th round, 137th overall)
Samuel Levac – Blainville-Boisbriand 2013 (9th round, 161st overall)
Brandon McCulloch – Rimouski 2013 (9th round, 162nd overall)
Danick Crête – Victoriaville 2013 (11th round, 190th overall)