(Picture of Théo Rochette / Source: Hockey Canada)
Elliot Desnoyers gave his country a chance to win a medal at this year’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The Moncton Wildcats forward scored the overtime winner in a quarter-final contest against the United States, lifting Team Canada Red to a 2-1 victory in front of a capacity crowd at the qplex in Quispamsis, N.B.
And while the Canadians fell 5-2 to Finland in the semifinals, the gritty group narrowly missed winning bronze, suffering a 4-3 shootout setback to Sweden on Saturday at Harbour Station in Saint John, N.B.
Russia claimed gold with a 2-1 win over Finland. Regardless, no one can take away the joy Desnoyers experienced when the red light went on to beat the U.S.
“When I scored that goal, I was feeling like when [Sidney] Crosby scored his golden goal in Vancouver [in the 2010 Olympic final against the U.S.],” Desnoyers said. “It was just amazing and I never thought I would do something like that in my life. I was so happy. I took everything here as a cue to help me grow as a player and as a person. Everything I did here will help me, on and off the ice.”
Desnoyers was one of four QMJHL players on Canada Red and among 13 in the tournament. The other three QMJHL players on Canada Red’s roster included defencemen Lukas Cormier (Charlottetown Islanders) and William Villeneuve (Saint John Sea Dogs), along with forward William Dufour (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies). Victoriaville Tigres bench boss Louis Robitaille served as Canada Red’s head coach.
Dufour tallied two goals in the tourney, while Villeneuve collected four assists. And although Cormier was held pointless, he moved the puck well and saw plenty of power-play duty.
“They did an outstanding job,” Robitaille said of his Q quartet. “The QMJHL can be really proud of the way these guys represented our league. They played quality minutes. We had one day off and now they understand how to play when they’re tired. When you have a chance to play quality minutes against this level of competition, you’re going to leave with a lot in your luggage.”
Robitaille emphasized the importance of the overall Hockey Canada experience, noting that players learn about everything from pre-game preparation to proper nutrition. The coach also enjoyed seeing French and English players helping each other better understand their respective languages.
“We were a family out there,” Robitaille said. “When they leave here, not only are they better players, but they’re also better people. It’s a huge honour to play the Canadian way and to respect the value and identity that guys like Crosby and Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky went through.”
The fifth-place game saw Canada Black post a 5-3 victory over Canada White. Gatineau Olympiques forward Pier-Olivier Roy notched an assist for Canada Black to finish with four points in the event (2-2-4).
“It’s unbelievable to play against the best players in the world,” Roy said. “You always have to work hard because you have guys on your back who want to take your spot.”
Team Canada Black teammates included Shawinigan Cataractes forward Charles Beaudoin and Sea Dogs forward Josh Lawrence (2-1-3), who’s known by many experts as one of the top prospects in his age group.
“I don’t really look too much into it,” said Lawrence, of the high hopes that surround him. “I just try to help my team win. Being able to wear the maple leaf and play for Team Canada was just an unforgettable experience. Just being able to play against the best players in the world is a great opportunity. We learned a lot throughout the tournament.”
Before losing the fifth-place game, Canada White dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to Finland in quarter final action.
“Their goalie [Joel Blomqvist] played well,” said Saint John defenceman Charlie DesRoches (1-0-1), one of six QMJHL players on Canada White. “Our team identity the whole tournament was just being resilient. We battled back from three down and we just came up short.”
“This is huge, taking this [experience] back to my club team,” added DesRoches. “I think I’ll be able to play a lot better with this experience. Playing right here in Saint John was a lot of fun. Playing in this rink is something I’ll remember forever.”
Canada White won all three of its preliminary games, finishing atop the Group A standings. Chicoutimi Saguenéens forward Théo Rochette led Canada White and the entire Q contingent, tallying two goals and a total of seven points.
Canada White defenceman Jérémie Poirier of the Sea Dogs also enjoyed a productive tourney, collecting three goals and three assists. Contributions to Canada White also came courtesy of Shawinigan forwards Mavrik Bourque (0-3-3), Xavier Bourgault (0-2-2) and William Veillette (0-1-1).
“I can take a lot of experience from this tournament,” Poirier said. “I played against guys my age, and I could play with the puck more, so I just have to bring that back with the Sea Dogs. I played in a lot of situations in this tournament.”