King on CHL: Kucherov comes back to haunt Roy

The Huskies, who acquired Kucherov from Quebec via trade in November, will advance to the third round of the QMJHL playoffs. (CP/Nathan Denette)

Patrick Roy’s gamble blew up in his face

The owner, head coach and general manager of the Quebec Remparts was at the epicentre of a controversial situation earlier this season. Thanks to a new rule that allowed him to have three import players on his roster, while only being allowed to play two, Roy opted to hold onto Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko and dual Swedish and Danish citizen, Nick Sorensen.

Instead, Roy traded Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in late November. Those who lamented the rule, which reeks of big-market favouritism, must have rejoiced upon seeing Kucherov’s small-market Huskies dispatch Roy’s Remparts in a stunning five-game second-round series.

Kucherov was instrumental in putting the finishing touches on his former team by scoring a hat trick and picking up three assists in his team’s 6-1 win in the decisive fifth game. He had four goals and five assists in the series, outscoring both Grigorenko (two goals in five games) and Sorensen (one goal in three games).

Roy stepped around the question when asked of his former player’s performance by the team’s beat reporter, Le Soleil’s Carl Tardif.

“I’d rather talk about my players’ performance rather than Kucherov’s,” Roy said. “(But) he played well.”

As for the Russian he held onto, Roy said: “I didn’t want to say I’m very disappointed in him, but we expected more from him. But hockey is a team sport. We all could have done more.”

Grigorenko spoke honestly of his performance in the days since the loss.

“I didn’t play as well as I hoped I would,” he told Le Soleil’s Olivier Bosse.

If nothing else, Roy now has Chicoutimi’s second-rounder, along with Sherbrooke’s fifth in this year’s draft and Sherbrooke’s import pick in 2014 to soften the blow.

Domi punches ticket, gets punched

Max Domi rubbed a little salt in the wound when he celebrated his empty-net goal on Friday Night Hockey, right in Max Iafrate’s face.

Upon seeing Domi with an over-the-top celebration, where he dropped down to one knee and less-than-subtly fist punched, Iafrate retaliated by dropping the Knights forward and starting a scrum.

The sequence sparked immediate controversy.

It was a disappointing end for the Rangers, whose anniversary 50th season ended without a sniff of the MasterCard Memorial Cup crown they itemized as a goal all season.

The Knights are off to the Western Conference final and will now face the Plymouth Whalers. The last time these two teams faced off was in the 2007 Western final when the Whalers won in five games en route to winning their last J. Ross Robertson Cup as league champions.

Titan sale, Sorel-Tracy next?

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan are staying put, and could now boast some star power from a former player: Patrice Bergeron, and local product, Sean Couturier.

The Titan’s anticipated sale will end a tumultuous tenure under long-time owner Leo-Guy Morissette. Known as a passionate, and at times, unreasonable, man, Morissette gives way to a group of investors that reportedly includes the two NHLers. The new group intends on keeping the team in the quaint, north-eastern New Brunswick town.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has also been linked to the sale, although it’s still speculation at this point.

According to TVA’s Mikael Lalancette, Sylvain Couturier, Sean’s father and the on-again, off-again GM, will be the team’s general manager while Danny Dupont remains as head coach.

With the Titan remaining in Bathurst, a group reportedly including NHLers Francois Beauchemin and Marc-Andre Fleury, along with former NHLer Marc Denis, is putting pressure on QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau to purchase and relocate a team to Sorel-Tracy as early as next season.

Battle of Alberta, Blazers-Winterhawks redux

One day before the Flames and Oilers met in the Battle of Alberta on Saturday, it was determined that the rivalry housing Alberta’s two biggest cities’ junior teams would meet in the Western Hockey League’s East final.

The defending champion Edmonton Oil Kings swept the Medicine Hat Tigers while the Calgary Hitmen dispatched the Red Deer Rebels in an all-Alberta conference semifinal. Now it’s down to the Hitmen and Oil Kings for the right to play in the league championship series.

The excitement of this series should boil over with NHL-sized attendance. Since both the Oilers and Flames are fledgling and likely non-playoff teams, NHL fans won’t have much more motivation to jump on the junior bandwagon.

Hitmen goalie and Senators prospect Chris Driedger set the tone in this story with the Calgary Herald: “Last year they destroyed us, basically,” he said.

“This year we finally got the upper edge in the season series, but playoffs is a completely different story. This is going to be a hard series. Nobody gets anything for free. Every hit, every inch of ice, is going to count.

“Does that make it fun? Oh, absolutely. That’s what we live for.”

The Western Conference will be decided between the Kamloops Blazers and the Portland Winterhawks. Last year, the Winterhawks held off the Blazers in a wildly entertaining second-round series, where the Blazers forced a Game 7 after trailing the series 3-0.

“They’ve won the last two Western Conference finals,” Blazers forward Brendan Ranford told the Kamloops Daily News’ Gregg Drinnan of the Winterhawks.

“We had a great series with them last year and it’ll be a good one again.”

Meanwhile, Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth continued etching his name in team history.

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