U18 AAA: a Quebec team could become Canadian champion for the first time in 22 years

M18 AAA: A team from Quebec could become Canadian champions for the first re time for 22 years

MISE À DAY

SAINT-HYACINTHE | It's been 22 years since Quebec won the U18 AAA National Championship, but the Gauls could remedy the situation this weekend, in front of their Maskoutain supporters. 

“We want to be the first to win in 22 years and have the cup in Saint-Hyacinthe [for the first time in its history]”, launched goalkeeper Cédric Cyr-Dauphinais in a confident tone, Thursday, at the end of a 29-save performance in a convincing 10-2 win over the Atlantic representatives Pictou County Majors. 

Heading into tonight's game against the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, the Saint-Hyacinthe team was undefeated and already guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals, as were the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François, who concluded the preliminary round in second place with a 3-1-1 record. 

This club from Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, near the national capital, secured its place after losing the final of the Classique des champions, new playoff format in the Quebec U18 AAA Hockey Development League. It was the Gauls who were crowned champions, but they had already qualified as hosts.

“We can't stop there,” said forward Dominic Pilote, first star against Pictou County thanks to a night of one goal and three assists. Sometimes it can become a trap when you haven't lost. We can take that a bit lightly.”

This means that the Belle Province has two excellent chances of being crowned, which s t would be a first since 2001. At the time, the Gouverneurs de Sainte-Foy – which became the Blizzard – had won the Air Canada Cup, the emblem of the midget AAA in the country. 

The team could count on Steve Bernier, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Alexandre Picard, who all played in the NHL.

Kristopher Letang et cie

This week, the Gauls are in their zone, in their renovated locker room and in their old arena full of history. 

They may have been inspired by several former hockey players of the team or from the region who came to do their tour, including Kristopher Letang, David Savard, Anthony Beauvillier, Bruno Gervais, François Beauchemin, William Trudeau, Hugues Laliberté, Elliot Desnoyers or David Laliberté.

Despite all the excitement, the players of Jean-Philippe Sansfaçon, himself a former Gaul, remain focused. They haven't trailed once since the start of the competition.

“We are in our zone, assured the young head coach. The guys are having fun and enjoying the moment. We focus on how we want to play. It was a bit difficult to manage all the emotion [Thursday night] when the opponent was trying to shake us up. We want to avoid injuries. I couldn't wait for it to be over.”

A long wait

Saint-Hyacinthe was supposed to host this championship in 2020, but due to COVID-19, it has been postponed twice.

“We are really impressed by the response of the population and it gives us energy when we play in front of many spectators,” mentioned Pilote, who belongs to the Océanic de Rismouki, in the QMJHL.

On average, 1,500 spectators attend the games of the Gaulois in the evening since Monday and more than 2000 people saw the two Quebec teams face off on Wednesday. During the regular season, we are talking about more than a few hundred fans in the stands of the Louis-Philippe-Gaucher stadium.

“The atmosphere is electrifying and perfect, rejoiced Cyr-Dauphinais. During the playoffs, during the Champions Classic, the fans were there. They are there for us and we play for them.”

The semi-finals will take place on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., while the final will be played on Sunday at 4 p.m., after the match for bronze at noon .