A match that will say a lot for the Phoenix
The Sherbrooke Phœnix views its next duel against the Quebec Remparts on Thursday as a barometer game in anticipation of the playoffs.
The confrontation will pit the leaders of the East and West associations of the QMJHL against each other and the animosity between the two clans could escalate a notch, especially since the team from Estrie seems to be one of the few to achieve success against the troop by Patrick Roy.
So far, the Phoenix have had two wins in three outings, including stopping the Remparts' 14-game winning streak with a 5-1 triumph on November 20.
Then, he left the Videotron Center on December 31, with a 5 to 2 victory.
Be careful not to stir up rivalry, head coach Stéphane Julien attaches great importance to this meeting, the penultimate of the campaign against Quebec.
“It's a good test. We will have more by the end of the season. We still play twice against Gatineau and three times against Victoriaville. These are barometer matches. Quebec is one of the hottest teams in Canada right now. It's a good time to see where we are in the process, but I'm happy. We had good practices, he mentioned in an interview with the QMI Agency after the morning training on Wednesday.
However, we must put aside the previous results and focus on the job to do.
“What happened is over. […] One of the strengths of guys is that they forget quickly. So even if I told them about the game on December 31, I'm not sure they would have any comments. I have the philosophy of going there day by day and looking forward. What happened against other teams is not very important: you have to build for the playoffs. The results are important, but the way to do it is even better,” he explained.
Aware that the Olympiques and the Tigres are two points behind his team, Julien hopes that they will continue their momentum of the last few weeks. She has won eight of her last 10 games, scoring 51 goals and giving up 17 times during that streak.
“We must not take bad folds until the end of the season. These intense and tight games, I think we have to take them as an opportunity to improve and take our team to another level. We have our destiny somewhat in our hands in our association, he said. The Remparts will be extremely difficult to join, if not impossible, so I think we have to focus on our conference. Tomorrow, these are points that we cannot escape, we are on a good streak at home.”
“I have liked the way we have been acting for a few games. We cannot be disappointed with our group at the moment, […] but it will be a good test for us, he also specified. The Remparts are a good hockey team with good players.”
Remparts-Phoenix: a very, very much anticipated game
Like their fans, the Sherbrooke Phoenix players are pumped up for Thursday's matchup against the Quebec Remparts.
Excitement for the game is at its peak, as the Phoenix indicated Wednesday afternoon that all the seats of the Palais des sports Léopold-Drolet will be occupied. Proof of the interest of local hockey fans, 100 standing places have been put up for sale by the organization.
Also, the advantageous place of the two clubs in the standings and the events that occurred during the Remparts' last visit to Estrie, on November 20, are not unrelated to the appeal of Thursday's match. The Remparts sports therapist on duty that evening, Steve Bélanger, was expelled in the third period for his comments to an official in an emotional match.
The Phoenix's 5-1 win didn't on its own build the rivalry, but it did fuel it. Including last season, the Sherbrooke team has won five of the last seven confrontations and each one has resulted in several crowds after the whistle. The animosity towards the enemy is therefore felt in the Phoenix locker room.
“Any time you have the chance to face a team aspiring to the same honors as you, whether you like it or not, it is a source of hostility. I will not hide it: there is no love in the air when we talk about the Remparts since last year. It's obvious and it's exciting to prove what you can achieve. It adds a bit of intensity,” said Estrie team captain Kaylen Gauthier after Wednesday's practice.
“We're not here to fool around”
Thus, Gauthier sees this meeting as a golden opportunity. After all, his people occupy the top of the Western Conference of the QMJHL and could send a strong message to the leaders of the general classification.
“With our aspirations this year, eventually, we will have to beat clubs of this caliber in the coming months. I think this is an opportunity to compete against one of the best teams. It is also a word in the league that we must pass only this year: we are not here to fool around. It's the kind of match that can serve us to show [our potential] to ourselves and to others. We are waiting for it with a firm footing,” he explained.
“We will have to be ready because if we are not, we will hurt ourselves. There are not many games that we can take lightly between now and the end of the season,” admitted the number 21.