The third place Rimouski Océanic and 14th place Moncton Wildcats are preparing to do battle in the first round of the 2018 President Cup Playoffs. The Océanic’s 42-17-6-3 record and 93 points earned them the QMJHL East Division title during the regular season while the Wildcats’ 27-33-5-3 record gave them 62 points on the season.
The Océanic punched their ticket to the playoffs for the 11th successive season in 2018. They look to advance beyond round one for the first time since 2015, when they defeated that year’s Memorial Cup hosts, the Quebec Remparts, in an epic seven-game tilt that went to double overtime in the deciding contest. Since arriving in Rimouski in 1995, the Océanic have appeared in five league finals, captured three President Cups and added a Memorial Cup Championship in 2000. The Wildcats are appearing in the QMJHL postseason following a one-year hiatus that followed appearances in back-to-back league semi-final series in both 2015 and 2016. The Cats boast three trips to the President Cup Final, as well as two playoff championships since arriving on the scene in 1995 as the Moncton Alpines.
The two teams faced off twice during the regular season. On October 8th in Rimouski, Dimitry Zavgorodniy’s goal 1:37 into overtime was the difference maker as the Océanic skated away with a 4-3 victory over the Wildcats. Rimouski’s Alexis Lafrenière and Moncton’s Jakob Pelletier – rookie sensations drafted first and third overall in the 2017 QMJHL Draft, respectively – both tallied in the contest. The Océanic wouldn’t make it to the Moncton Coliseum until February 18th, but they made an impression when the time finally arrived. Lafrenière scored twice and added an assist, one of seven multi-point efforts for the club, in an 8-3 win for Rimouski.
The playoff history between the Océanic and Wildcats is long and plentiful. Though they have not crossed paths in the postseason since 2009, this will be the sixth time the two clubs face off on the road to the President Cup. From 1998-2000, they did battle on three consecutive occasions and Rimouski won those three series by a cumulative record of 10-1. The Wildcats turned the tables in 2004, defeating the Sidney Crosby-led Océanic in five games, en route to their first ever President Cup Final appearance. Their 2009 encounter was a five-game series victory for Rimouski.
All eyes will be on Lafrenière as he continues a spectacular rookie campaign that saw him tally 42 goals, the most for a 16-year-old player in the “Q” since Crosby netted 54 back in 2003-04. Others to watch on the Océanic include center Samuel Dove-McFalls, acquired from the 2017 President Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs in the off-season, who produced 73 points on the year. Mid-season acquisition Mathieu Nadeau posted 43 points in 32 games with Rimouski, while rookie netminder Colten Ellis put up a sensational 33-8-5 record to go with a league leading six shutouts.
For the Wildcats, Jeremy McKenna led the way with 36 goals and 77 points. James Phelan, picked up by the Cats during the Christmas trade period, registered 74 points on the season while the aforementioned Pelletier scored 23 times and added 38 assists in his first QMJHL season. On the blue line, Nicholas Welsh was one of the top offensive defenseman in the “Q” this season, producing 66 points.
One of the top storylines of the series will be between the rookie sensations Lafrenière and Pelletier. Also of note, Jeremy McKenna and Carson MacKinnon, both of whom hail from Summerside, PEI, will be facing off against one another. In 2014-15, the two were teammates with the Midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds.
Rimouski Océanic team profile
Moncton Wildcats team profile