Welcome to April’s edition of Dobber’s QMJHL update! With one round in the books, junior hockey fans were treated to a little bit of everything in the first taste of playoff hockey. From a few upsets to emerging rivalries, and of course, plenty of hostilities to go around as the temperature gets ratcheted up a notch. We had sweeps, scoring fests, goalie duels and a seven-game series that went right down to the wire (even a called-back goal in game seven overtime!). The stage is set, and teams are ready to kick off round two on Friday night as the quest to punch
their ticket to the Memorial Cup hosted by the Kamloops Blazers in May is on the line. Today, we are going to go through a list of the matchups outlining what each team can do to win the series, my predictions, and the leading forces in the playoffs so far! (Not to mention players to keep an eye on in your fantasy pools!)
Without further adieu, let’s get to it!
Quebec Remparts (1) vs Rimouski Oceanic (5)
Patrick Roy and the Remparts disposed of the Charlottetown Islanders in a quick series, completing the sweep with a 5-1 victory. Charlottetown, coming off a President’s Cup Finals appearance last season, was in tough from the get-go, having lost a large portion of their core to trade or graduation to the pro level. Still, they put up a valiant effort, playing the Remparts close in the first two games before Quebec took control on games three and four. The Oceanic are riding high from a five-game series where they took out the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, whom many had advancing over Rimouski. Patrick Hamrla was the key for the Oceanic, keeping Chicoutimi to three goals or less four times in the series. The major caveat being Hamrla may not have been tested, facing less than 25 shots four times. For Rimouski to overcome the Remparts, who can continuously play the matchup game with four game-breaking centres, the defensive effort they showed against Chicoutimi will have to come out in full force. If they can force Quebec to play defence and stick to their own structure, the series has a chance to go beyond five games. Sprinkle in the potential for Hamrla to steal a game or two, and this could be a long series. But with the weapons in Patrick Roy’s arsenal, he has the potential to make this a quick series. It will all depend which team can stick to their game plan.
Prediction: Remparts in 5
Halifax Mooseheads (2) vs Moncton Wildcats (3)
Would you take a rested team or a battle-tested team? That is the question heading into this
series. The Moncton Wildcats edged the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in game seven with an overtime winner
from New York Rangers draftee Maxim Barbashev. This series had it all. From high scores to defensive battles and excellent goaltending performances, the team that came out of this series
would have a chance in round two after being forced to find multiple ways to win and not just the ones with which they were comfortable. With a record-breaking five games decided in
overtime, the Wildcats have shown they can win under the brightest of spotlights.
The Halifax Mooseheads are at the other end of the spectrum. After taking care of business in four games versus the Cape Breton Eagles, the Mooseheads endured their share of struggles against a team that could have forced another game or two out of the series. After failing to start on time in games one and two, Halifax’s scoring depth bailed them out. From deadline
acquisitions Josh Lawrence and 57-goal man Alexandre Doucet, this team boasts a plethora of offence to go around. That’s not to mention the Jordan Dumais matrix that Moncton will have to
solve quickly to avoid falling behind. One of the more bitter rivalries in the QMJHL, this series gives the vibes that it could go the distance to a game seven. All of this will depend on Jacob Steinman and Etienne Morin, who put up 13 points in seven games in the first round. All hands on deck for Moncton, and Halifax could have their hands full with an opponent who has played them well all year.
Prediction: Mooseheads in 7
Sherbrooke Phoenix (1) vs Drummondville Voltigeurs (6)
Like the Mooseheads, the Phoenix boast a roster four lines deep and proved to be too much for a reeling Armada squad in the first round. With burgeoning prospect Joshua Roy leading the way and support from Justin Gill and Ethan Gauthier, it feels like this team could just be grazing the surface of what they could be on this playoff run. Sherbrooke is rightfully considered one of the favourites to take home the Gilles-Courteau Trophy and boast the depth to do just that. But standing in their way is a team that could be their kryptonite. The Voltigeurs are a tough matchup for anyone, let alone a team built like the Phoenix. With a physically large group, Drummondville can throw a gritty bunch your way with the likes of Maveric Lamoureux, and Tyler Peddle and a smaller group of scorers such as Luke Woodworth. Their job in this series will be to muck up the treads of a Sherbrooke team who has had their way this year. If the Voltigeurs can bring that fire element to take on the Phoenix, who bring the
ice, they stand a chance to make this a long series and potentially shock the Western Conference leaders in a similar way to how they took down Victoriaville in five games.
Prediction: Phoenix in 6
Gatineau Olympiques (2) vs Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (5)
Gatineau cruised to the finish line of the regular season with a red-hot squad, and they used that momentum to take out the Memorial Cup Champions, the Saint John Sea Dogs. A series many
thought to be a slam dunk four-game sweep, the Sea Dogs took a piece out of this Olympiques team and potentially providing a road map for future matchups to exploit. With Noah Warren out for the season, Anaheim Ducks prospect Tristan Luneau has been leaned on to take the brunt of the minutes lost from Warren, who typically took on tough defensive minutes consistently.
But with the punch that Luneau possesses at both ends of the ice, he has the ability to be a true X-Factor in round two for Gatineau.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, on the other hand, outscored their way to beating the defending QMJHL champions, the Shawinigan Cataractes. The Huskies could hold the elixir to defeat Gatineau, who can score at will. If Rouyn-Noranda can continue to create chances at a high volume, which the Olympiques have allowed consistently since Warren’s injury, there is hope yet for the Huskies to punch their ticket to the semi-finals. But the second it becomes a goalie battle, there are few in the league who can go pound for pound with Francesco Lapenna.
Prediction: Gatineau in 5
Top 10 Scorers in Round One
C Zachary Dean – Gatineau – 5GP, 5G, 7A, 13PTS
D Etienne Morin – Moncton – 7GP, 2G, 11A, 13 PTS
C Riley Kidney – Gatineau – 5GP, 2G, 9A, 11PTS
RW Alexandre Doucet – Halifax – 4GP, 5G, 5A, 10PTS
RW Joshua Roy – Sherbrooke – 4GP, 5G, 5A, 10PTS
LW Yoan Loshing – Moncton – 6GP, 5G, 5A, 10PTS
C Josh Lawrence – Halifax – 4GP, 3G, 7A, 10PTS
C Vincent Labelle – Moncton – 7GP, 2G, 8A, 10PTS
RW Alexis Gendron – Gatineau – 5GP, 8G, 1A, 9PTS
RW Daniil Bourash – Rimouski – 5GP, 5G, 4A, 9PTS
Top 5 Goalies in Round One (SV% minimum 200 minutes played)
Francesco Lapenna – 4-1-0, 1.01 GAA, 0.962 SV%
William Rousseau – 4-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 0.955 SV%
Riley Mercer – 4-0-1, 1.85 GAA, 0.941 SV%
Mathis Rousseau – 4-0-0, 1.93 GAA, 0.935 SV%
Olivier Ciarlo – 3-1-3, 2.96 GAA, 0.916 SV%
Thanks for reading this month’s edition of the QMJHL Report. Feel free to give me a follow
@seany_hockey on Twitter, and don’t hesitate to reach out into my DMs or simply tagging me in
a tweet if you want to discuss my picks, the QMJHL playoffs or anything else related to hockey!