The Rimouski Oceanic were the talk of the 2005 Memorial Cup. They made their own practice arrangements when they arrived and were fined by the CHL for doing so. With phenom Sidney Crosby on the team, fans attended Rimouski practices in great numbers, hoping for a glimpse of Crosby or an autograph.
The team entered the tournament with only one loss in 2005 and they had a showdown with the host London Knights on opening night. The Oceanic blew a two-goal lead in the game and would lose 4-3 in overtime. Rimouski would go on to defeat Ottawa 4-3 and Kelowna 4-3 and advanced to the semi-finals where they would beat Ottawa 7-4 before bowing out to London in the finals, 4-0.
Rimouski used three lines and basically went with units of five — the same defensive pairs with their forward combinations. The Oceanic have their own theme song that was played every time they scored a goal and that was a song that many a Quebec league goalie hears in his nightmares. In the end the Oceanic relied too much on one line to score their points and they had a number of defensemen who were not very mobile or good passers who did not help their cause.
Below is a recap of how their drafted and draft eligible players performed.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot (EDM) played the right side on the big line and would occasionally line up at center. He finished up with nine points in five games and was a very physical force on the line. He is very good at switching wings on the power play, drifting out to some open ice and escaping the attention of the defenders for opportunities. Pouliot didn’t have a good game in the finals as he missed a glorious opportunity to score in the first and he put a pass into Crosby’s skates that could have given Crosby a clear cut breakaway. But the big line made many impressive plays during the week and scored some highlight reel goals.
Dany Roussin (FLA) was the man who would go to the net on the big line. While Crosby and Pouliot would control the puck, he would tie up defenders and wait for his chance to bang in a rebound or drift away for an easy tap in. Not afraid to mix it up along the boards, Roussin picked up nine points in the tournament.
Zbynek Hrdel (TB) was the only other forward outside of the big three to score a goal for the Oceanic and he scored on a rebound against the Rockets on a four-on-four situation. Hrdel was very quiet all tournament and didn’t create much offense. He finished tied for the worst plus/minus on the team at –6.
Mark Tobin (TB) was the left winger on the second line and he started the tournament with some big hits against London and Ottawa, but he seemed to tire out as the tournament went on. He wasn’t able to create many scoring chances and his line didn’t have the puck very much, so he wasn’t able to contribute the big hits on the forecheck that he is known for.
Danny Stewart (MON) was the center on the second line and he showed some flash and was able to beat some defenders on the rush, but he wasn’t able to finish. He finished at –6 and wasn’t able to generate any offense on the second unit on the power play.
Eric Neilson (LA) was the center on the third line and played a very physical tournament and his line held their own and he finished –1. This line wasn’t expected to generate much offense, their job was to check the opponents top line and finish their checks and Neilson did that. He made a rather foolish play in the finals when he sucker punched Corey Perry (ANA) during a line change and picked up a minor penalty and misconduct that put his team down two men and led to the Knights first goal.
Jean-Michel Bolduc (MIN) made a number of poor clearing attempts that led to good scoring chances and a few goals. He didn’t skate very well and was only effective along the wall when there was no room for his opponent to outskate him. He did score a nice goal on the power play in a game against Kelowna, but overall he had a poor tournament and he looked very bad on London’s second goal in the final when he was beaten to a loose puck by Danny Fritsche (CLB) on a relatively easy play.
Michal Sersen (PIT) was usually paired with Bolduc and had a pretty solid tournament and had to cover his partners’ mistakes on a number of occasions. Sersen did a great job at playing his man on the rush and made decent outlet passes for the most part.
2005 draft eligible players
Crosby showed everyone why he is the consensus first overall pick. He scored one goal and one assist in each of the first three games before exploding for a hat trick and two assists in the semi-finals. He was held pointless in the final against some tough checking from London who had the advantage of last change and fresher legs. Crosby displayed great skating abilities with great leg strength that allowed him to hold off bigger opponents. He can turn on a dime and made many miss him. He usually went outside and was content to look for an open teammate, but he did occasionally put on the afterburners and take the puck up the middle. His passes are hard and crisp and he doesn’t have to think about making a play, if he sees someone open the puck is gone from his stick in a flash. He will drift around on a power play, looking relatively harmless, but the moment the puck is loose, he darts in and is on it and the puck usually ends up in the net. Crosby took more physical abuse than he was used to, and took it all in stride for the most part, but he did get more agitated late in the tournament, especially in the finals against London. With 11 points in five games and +7, this 17-year-old prodigy put on a show all week long.
Francois Bolduc was one of the big defenders paired on the third unit of defense and he didn’t show a lot of skating ability or offensive poise. He is effective in front of the net at clearing away opponents, but is still very raw in most aspects of his game.
Erick Tremblay was usually paired with Bolduc and the two youngsters are very similar in size and abilities. Someone may take a flyer on one or both of them because of their size, but they will have to work hard on their skating and other elements of their game.
Neilson and Mario Scalzo Jr. will be moving on. Scalzo Jr. was picked up at the trading deadline and made a huge impact on the team as they never lost a game with him in the lineup during the regular season. He was named to the tournament all-star team and was perhaps the most exciting player to watch as the smallish defenseman was constantly jumping into the rush and creating opportunities while his opponents were fixated on watching the forwards. Scalzo Jr. had nine points and finished a tournament high +8.
Roussin, Pouliot, Sersen and Tobin could return as overage players but will likely be playing pro next season. Hrdel, Stewart, JM Bolduc may also play pro, but could be back as overage players depending on their contract status. Patrick Coulombe was the other defenseman on the top unit and the tiny defenseman sparkled all week with his great skating, passing and offensive instincts. He had seven points and finished +6 and is a likely candidate to be back as an overage player because of his 5’9 and 163-pound frame. Goalie Cedrick Desjardins could be back as well as role player Benoit Arsenault. Crosby of course has two years of junior eligibility left, but the two-time CHL player of the year has nothing left to prove at this level. Of the four teams at the Memorial Cup, Rimouski will be hit the hardest by graduation.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.