#WarOfThe55 : Phoenix vs Voltigeurs

Even though the rivalry between the Sherbrooke Phoenix and the Drummondville Voltigeurs isn’t the liveliest in the QMJHL, the two organizations still aren’t the friendliest of neighbours when the puck drops. The Autoroute 55 rivals meet on October 13th in the Eastern Townships before travelling the highway again the following day, this time to the heart of Quebec (Centre-du-Québec). It will be interesting to see how the veteran players of these two young teams will teach their rookies on the importance of winning these important western division rivalries.

This time last year, Phoenix head coach Stéphane Julien had been quoted in the daily newspaper “La Tribune” saying that “a game against the Voltigeurs is always intense.” Phoenix has a record of 16 wins and 13 losses in regulation time, three losses in overtime as well as six draws (before they were abolished). Setting aside tie games, they have a record of 16 wins and 16 losses. It’s hard to be any more neck and neck.

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Players to watch in 2017-2018

In Drummondville, coach Ducharme will be relying on Olivier Rodrigue in net. On the blue line, there are eight defensemen. Six of them are 18 years of age or younger. Nicolas Beaudin, Xavier Bernard and Thomas Pelletier are destined to have great seasons in the QMJHL. On offense, the Voltigeurs have a good squad. Twenty-year-old veterans Yvan Mongo and Morgan Adams-Moisan, two former members of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, will support Xavier Simoneau and Dawson Mercer, who were selected in the first-round of the draft last summer.

Added to the mix, Cédrick Desruisseaux, aged 17, is just starting off in the league and American player Robert Lynch is on track towards surpassing his record from last season, already collecting seven points in five games compared to 9 points in 37 games last year. Russian-born Pavel Koltygin, a Nashville Predators prospect, and captain Nicolas Guay also know how to put points up on the board.

For a fourth winter, the Phoenix have entrusted Evan Fitzpatrick, a St-Louis Blues prospect, between the posts. In the absence of his good friend Luke Green, who has a shoulder injury, “Fitz” must deal with a young defense in front of him. At least, quarterback Thomas Gregoire leads the group by showing consistency night after night.

Offensively, the Phoenix have bet on a mixture of rookies and veterans. Brothers Poulin, Samuel (16 years old) and Nicolas (20 years old), will be playing on the same team for the first time in their lives. Opponents wanting to take aim at Samuel, 2nd overall pick in 2017, will be accountable to big brother, Nicolas. Mathieu Olivier also demands respect. Captain Hugo Roy and Europeans Marek Zachar and Yaroslav Alexeyev also have several offensive responsibilities.

Very few trades

Since the Phoenix’s arrival in the QMJHL back in 2012, only two trades have been registered between then GMs Charboneau and Ricard. The first one in October 2012, Drummondville sent Slovak Tomas Torok to Sherbrooke for a 6th round pick. The latter only wore the Phoenix jersey five times, registering an assist. A few weeks later, veteran Cole Hawes landed in Drummondville, in exchange for a selection in the second round. In 30 games, he tallied points in 17 matchups.

Since then, other than pick trades during the draft, the two teams have never conducted a deal. We are predicting that this will not change, given that both clubs have filled up with rookies over the summer. If their reconstruction plan is proceeding as planned, they should aiming for the top honours around the same time.

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