MONTREAL, QC — Tonight’s conclusion of round-robin action has been awaited by several, and not only since last Friday. The significance of the Shawinigan Cataractes vs. the Saint John Sea Dogs, two clubs whose cities are separated by a nine-and-a-half-hour drive, began on April 7th, 2011.
That was the date that it was formally announced that Shawinigan, not Saint John, would be awarded the right to host the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Outrage was present on both sides: the Cataractes were booed in and around Harbour Station for the rest of the 2011 playoffs, while Cataractes’ GM Martin Mondou was fined $2000 for his comments calling the Sea Dogs “a good team, (in a) really nice city with a super nice arena, but (awarding them the tournament) would not send a good message on the part of the league.” His argument was based on the draft two years prior that to his assessment “embarrassed the league.”
The rest of the playoffs are history: the Sea Dogs went on to win the President’s Cup and the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup, and with several defending championship players available for the 2011-12 season, the message was out there; they would be back to claim what’s theirs, in more ways than one. Sure enough, this season, they captured a second straight league championship to assure themselves of a berth against the hosts, who fell in the quarterfinals to Chicoutimi in seven games.
The next time the tournament will be featured in a QMJHL city is the year 2015. Given the short cycles associated with junior hockey teams, if Saint John were to place a bid, the chances of having a competitive team is hardly likely to be on the same level as the one that has been in place for the last two years.
Contrary to (or supportive of, depending on your perspective) the typical made-for-TV-movie plot, the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup has had its share of bumps and bruises for the Sea Dogs and their egos, as after facing only one loss in the post-season, they opened with a defeat against the London Knights and were the only team in the tournament without a win before Monday night. Shawinigan, after dropping their first game to the Edmonton Oil Kings, rebounded with a 6-2 win over those same Knights. Last night, the 1-1-1-1 tie was solved when the OHL and WHL faced off and London came out the winner, leaving Edmonton in a tie-breaker situation against a team that will be determined tonight.
Should Saint John come away the victors after tonight’s matchup is all said and done, the London Knights would advance directly to Sunday’s championship game as they beat Saint John on Saturday night and therefore own that tiebreaker. If Shawinigan wins, they would advance to Sunday’s final, having beaten the Knights in their matchup.