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It can be a double-edged sword, getting the bye into the Championship Game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament. While advancing to final puts a team within one game of winning junior hockey's top prize, the break can make things difficult to prepare for the big game....
The QMJHL Champion Halifax Mooseheads finished their round-robin schedule Tuesday with a lopsided win against the OHL's London Knights. After Portland beat Saskatoon Wednesday, the Mooseheads advanced directly to Sunday's Final. That gives the Halifax five days between games in Saskatoon, something rare at this time of year.
"It’s important to have a good balance," said Mooseheads Coach Dominque Ducharme. "Today – we had an intense and good practice for an hour. Then we’ll have a team activity this afternoon. Tomorrow morning a meeting on special team, and then off-ice and then a team activity."
"You need that balance...you cannot just be sitting in front of the TV watching clips for three days (between Thursday and Sunday)."
Over the years Memorial Cup teams have taken additional steps to try and keep players relaxed leading into the final. At the 2008 event in Kitchener, the Spokane Chiefs spent a full day in Toronto. Among their stops was the Hockey Hall of Fame and a Toronto Blue Jays game. Last year, the London Knights went to Quebec City - taking a break from the Shawinigan-based tournament, and their hotel in Trois Rivieres.
Being in Saskatoon this year, a major getaway is a little more difficult. Edmonton is the closest major city - a five-hour drive away.
"We have to make sure we work hard when we have to and we have fun when we’re away from the rink, said forward Stephen MacAulay. "We’re going to make sure we do team activities, go to movies, mini-golf maybe. We’re just going to make sure we focus when we need to."
"I think we're going to see the Hangover 3 tonight - it's kind of the thing right now," added Mooseheads star Nathan MacKinnon. "We went to the batting cages and mini putt the other day as well. I'm terrible at those things, so a movie is good for me."
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