Sunday, 24 May 2015

Memorial Cup Round-robin: Generals 5, Remparts 4 (OT)

The Generals got through the Remparts 5-4 in overtime to assure themselves of a playoff berth.

This is the matchup Canadiens fans most anticipated, the Generals and hulking forward Michael McCarron and the Remparts with all-star goalie Zachary Fucale.  Two jewels in the crown, big pieces on the farm for the Canadiens, players who can have a big say on the future success of the franchise.

And as discussed earlier, this would be a game where fans were conflicted.  Sure, you want Michael to score and produce and have a good game, but not at the expense of the goalie, the other guy you're cheering for.  You want him to stone the other team.  Except for Michael, who we want to score.  Round and round we go.

Both guys held up their end of the bargain early.  Michael scored the first goal of the game with a textbook deflection of a shot from the point.  Zachary had no chance on it, the puck was headed for the crossbar and bounced down at his feet and through his legs.  The play was actually reviewed by the refs to ensure Michael's stick didn't touch the puck above the crossbar.

Later, Mike and Mike (Dal Colle) took off on a two-on-one, with our boy carrying the puck, then making a perfect pass right on the tape of his linemate's stick, who converted it for the Generals' second goal.  Again, Zachary could not be faulted on this one, it was a well-executed two-on-one, with a cross-crease pass and no bobbled puck.

Aside from that, Zach was solid, making a few good saves, handling the puck well, getting kudos from the broadcast team.

The second period was more of the same, with Mike showing dominance in terms of his size and play along the boards, and Zachary Fucale minding the store, and shutting down the other team.

It wasn't flawless for Michael, he's not quite Eric Lindros just yet.  While he was strong on the cycle, he sometimes would bury the puck, allow himself to get outnumbered and eventually lose it.  He got surprised in his zone when off-balance and a smaller Rempart decided to ignore his stickhandling and just stick a shoulder into him, which rocked him backward.  And on one sequence on a powerplay, he stood high in the slot and banged his stick incessantly, asking for the puck, when he wasn't really that great an option or that open.

So maybe we should participate in the draft this June after all, pick up some new prospects.  I don't think Michael by himself will solve everyone of our problems.

But it's great to see the development in his game, the confidence, the leadership he's asserting as a 19-year-old player.

And it's cool to see him getting some love from the media.  Damien Cox of Sportsnet did a focus segment on him during the second intermission, and Rob Faulds interviewed him on-ice before puck drop at the start of the third.

Two quick goals started off the third.  The Generals got a powerplay goal on a shot from the point, and again I'll make an allowance for Zachary that he was screened by 6'6" Hunter Smith.

The Remparts tied it up at 3-3, also on the powerplay.  Michael McCarron I assume lost the draw on the penalty kill, but I can't swear to it, since Sportsnet's picture didn't show us the play, the director was more interested in a shot of the Generals' coach behind the bench than the actual play going on.  Par for the course for them I guess, they routinely miss faceoffs when they're too busy showing slick graphics or promos.

The third period was more of the same for Michael, a strong drive to the net for a good shot and scoring chance, a wraparound attempt, strong play on faceoffs and the cycle.  Oshawa coach D.J. Smith relied on him quite a bit, giving him lots of ice and responsibility, killing penalties, powerplay, everything.

Another hiccup though, when trying to stickhandle and deke behind his own net with the puck, and almost getting burned.  This isn't the time to be fancy Mike, your coach would love a 'strong play' right now.  Just bang it off the glass.

Zachary also distinguished himself, resisting the onslaught when the Generals were bottling up the Remparts.

A long overtime period was needed with the score tied 4-4 after 60 minutes, and it went as the latter stages of the game went, with the Generals dominating positional play, spending a lot of time in the Québec zone, until the Remparts would break out and be dangerous on the rush.  The Generals won late, on a goal by defenceman Stephen Desrochers off a clean faceoff win by Canucks prospect Cole Cassels.

Zachary, who was bombarded with 50 shots during the game, might have gone down a little early on that one, but again it's hard to say he's responsible for that one, with the hard shot going in off the crossbar, it wasn't a cream puff by any means.

So now the Remparts have to beat the Océanic to try to make the playoff round.  It would be sweet revenge for them, after losing the Presidents' Cup against this very same team, in overtime of Game 7.  Should be a good game too.

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