Me­mo­rial Cup mem­o­ries

Brent Roach re­flects on his trip to ma­jor ju­nior’s big dance

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER SPE­CIAL OLYMPICS nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

As Cana­dian ma­jor ju­nior hockey teams vie for this spot at the 2016 Me­mo­rial Cup, it has one Bay Roberts man rem­i­nisc­ing about his time in the tour­na­ment.

Brent Roach, new 32, was only 19 then and don­ning the colours of the Hull Oylmpique of the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the 2002-03 sea­son.

“The event it­self is top, top notch,” said Brent. “It’s very well-ran, you’re treated pro­fes­sion­ally and there’s a lot of me­dia.

“Ev­ery game, you’d come in and there’d be eight or 10 re­porters in the room.” The Me­mo­rial Cup is big busi­ness in Canada. It’s the big­gest prize in ma­jor ju­nior hockey and it fea­tures the win­ners from the three leagues and the host city.

A count­less num­ber of Na­tional Hockey League play­ers have hoisted the sto­ried tro­phy since its in­cep­tion in 1918.

The Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels will host this year’s event May 19-29.

Que­bec City hosted the Olympiques in 2003, along with the On­tario league win­ning Kitch­ener Rangers and the Kelowna Rock­ets, the top team in the Western Hockey League for the Me­mo­rial Cup.

“I was sat down watch­ing Hockey Night in Canada and they men­tioned Shea We­ber had been to three Me­mo­rial Cups and the first was in 2003,” said Brent.

“I thought about it. I don’t re­mem­ber Shea We­ber be­ing there.”

That’s be­cause Shea We­ber then wasn’t what he is now. Then, he was four inches shorter and served be­hind Josh Gorges and Dun­can Keith on the blue­line for the Rock­ets.

Brent and his team­mates met the Rock­ets in their open­ing game of the tour­na­ment. Kelowna came in hot but fell 4-1 to Hull.

“You come in and you hear about this great team from out west,” said Brent. “There is a bit of a chip on your shoul­der be­cause ev­ery­one wants to prove that they’re the best league.”

From there, it was a 4-1 loss to Kitch­ener and a 5-3 win over Que­bec. That set them up for a semi­fi­nals match with the Rock­ets. A tight 2-1 vic­tory meant a show­down with the Derek Roy lead Rangers.

A Me­mo­rial Cup wasn’t in the cards, how­ever, as Kitch­ener dou­bled Hull 6-3.

“I was ex­cited to be play­ing in the Me­mo­rial Cup. We had a great bunch of fel­las that got along well,” said Brent. “It was just sort of un­ex­pected.”

An un­ex­pected sea­son

The 2002-2003 Hull Olympiques were sup­posed to be in a re­build­ing year. Star for­ward Ales Hem­sky had earned a spot with the NHL’s Edmonton Oil­ers at the start of the sea­son and lead­ing scorer Philippe La­cosse had aged out.

“We knew we were sup­posed to be re-tool­ing for the fu­ture,” said Brent.

That didn’t stop the play­ers from turn­ing the no­tion of a re­build­ing sea­son on its ear. Fu­ture pro Maxime Tal­bot notched 130 points and Jean-Michel Daoust added an­other 94 to help lead the team.

For his part, Roach found his name on the score­sheet for 56 games, reg­is­ter­ing 12 goals and eight as­sists. He was one of four New­found­lan­ders with the Olympiques that sea­son.

The oth­ers were Doug O’Brien, Dale Sul­li­van and Sam Roberts.

New coach Benoit Groulx got his charges go­ing and the team re­sponded with a solid reg­u­lar sea­son. They fin­ished second in the west di­vi­sion with a record of 39 wins, 27 losses, four ties and two over­time losses.

“We made some moves at the (trade) dead­line and that sparked us,” said Brent. “It showed man­age­ment had faith in us.

“It wasn’t a surprise to us, but we weren’t heav­ily favoured.”

Play­off run

The Olympiques’ reg­u­lar sea­son mo­men­tum car­ried over into the post sea­son. The team met the RouynNo­randa Huskies in the open­ing round of the QMJHL playoffs.

Hull swept their op­po­nents four games to none. Mov­ing to the second round, they were paired with the Sher­brooke Cas­tors.

The matchup held a dif­fer­ent twist for Roach. His younger brother Brandon was a first-year de­fence­man with the Cas­tors.

“That added some­thing ex­tra to it,” said Brent. “Our par­ents went up and were at the game. Mom wanted us to score, just not when the other one was on the ice.”

That se­ries ended four games to one in favour of the Olympiques. In the league semi­fi­nals, Hull pro­duced an­other four game sweep. This time they got the bet­ter of the Val-d’Or Foreurs.

In the fi­nals, the Olympiques out­lasted the Hal­i­fax Moose­heads 4-3 in seven games. Brent ap­peared in 17 of his team’s 20 play­off games and notched two goals and seven as­sists.

Brent knew he wasn’t re­turn­ing for his 20-year-old sea­son. Con­cus­sion is­sues led him to that de­ci­sion.

“It was nice to end it off like that with a Me­mo­rial Cup run,” said Brent.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Brent Roach (cen­tre) is shown here dur­ing over-19 hockey league play in this Com­pass file photo.

Roach

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