Holding a 7-5 series lead in points, the QMJHL will be tasked with finishing the job against Russia in Chicoutimi and Baie-Comeau this week.
Monday’s 5-2 Team OHL victory in Hamilton was an important win, but one that will be short-lived as a quick turnaround sets up Game 5 on Tuesday at Centre Georges-Vézina in Chicoutimi, QC.
Canadian National Junior Team head coach Dominique Ducharme (Drummondville Voltigeurs), who has traveled across the country taking in the CIBC Canada Russia Series, will guide Team QMJHL into tonight’s contest and is very clear on what it is that he and Hockey Canada brass are looking for.
“We want a team that plays with speed, with skill,” he said. “We want to be reliable, we want to be good on both sides of the puck. There’s no question – all of these players are very good, but who can bring their game to another level and be dominant against the best in the world?”
Boasting a pair of players who were deemed worthy of falling into that exceptional category last year in returning World Junior representatives Julien Gauthier (Val-d’Or Foreurs) and Thomas Chabot (Saint John Sea Dogs), Team QMJHL features a number of other intriguing names both up front and on the back end.
Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) was a late cut from the National Junior Team last December while big centreman Nicolas Roy (Chicoutimi Saguenéens) comes off a 48-goal campaign a year ago.
On the blue line, a number of highly talented rearguards will audition for spots including reigning QMJHL Defenceman of the Year Samuel Girard (Shawinigan Cataractes), the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies duo of Boston Bruins prospect Jérémy Lauzon and Philadelphia Flyers signee Philippe Myers, as well as Vancouver Canucks prospect Guillaume Brisebois (Charlottetown Islanders).
In goal, 19-year-old Carolina Hurricanes prospect Callum Booth (Québec Remparts) and 18-year-old Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) will serve as the last line of defence.
There’s no shortage of talent in the Q ranks and Ducharme will ensure that expectations are laid out clearly from the outset.
“I have taken the time to talk with every team before their first game of the series,” he said. “These guys have to be aware of what we’re looking for, what kind of special players that we want to be finding.”
“If we want to be a special team, we need special players.”
Team QMJHL goes up against a Russian squad that will add talented offensive producers Vitalii Abramov and Yakov Trenin (Gatineau Olympiques) to its ranks for Games 5 and 6.
The QMJHL holds an all-time record of 14-9-3 against Russia, including a mark of 6-3-1 over the past five years.
A QMJHL regulation win on Tuesday would clinch the series for the Canadian Hockey League.
Game 5 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series is slated for a 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT start. Catch all of the action on Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet Pacific and TVA Sports 2.