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It is time to raise the curtain on the 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Quebec City. The three league champions and host club are looking forward to tournament action....
The tournament opener features the WHL champion Kelowna Rockets battling the host Quebec Remparts at Le Colisee Pepsi (7:30pm EDT, Sportsnet). The Rockets have been idle since capturing the Western Hockey League Championship May 13th against the Brandon Wheat Kings. The team held a full morning skate Friday to prepare for tonight's opener - and hopefully work off the last bit of rust. "I thought the guys looked really good in practice this morning – which really means nothing other than the fact that they’re geared up and ready to go," said Rockets coach Dan Lambert. "In saying that, sometimes rest is nice too. Until the puck drops we won’t know if it affected us, or how it affected us.
The skate was the Rockets' only chance to test out Le Colisee prior to taking on the hometown Remparts. Thursday's practice was originally slated for the big rink before being moved to a nearby facility. "I honestly was very very disappointed that we weren’t skating here yesterday to be honest with you. That was really important – but you have to roll with the punches," added Lambert.
As part of their preparation for the tournament, the Rockets adjusted curfew over the past week to attempt to move their body clocks from Pacific to Eastern time.
On the other hand, the Remparts are trying to keep things as close to "business as usual" as possible. After dropping Game 7 of the QMJHL final Monday, playing their next game Friday night is par for the course for a junior hockey schedule. "Other than us staying at the hotel for the tournament, it’s regular (schedule)," explained Remparts forward Adam Erne. "Most of us go to the same restaurant before games, that’s kind of been a team thing. We (went) there as a team yesterday."
Quebec is the only team competing for the Memorial Cup that is not a reigning league champion. The Rimouski Oceanic beat Quebec Monday night in the seventh game of the QMJHL final. Erne believes the sour taste of defeat might help the Remparts leading into this event, rather than coming off a victory celebration. "Honestly I think if we would have won it would have been probably more difficult. You lose, you’re hungry to win."
"These guys have already won, I think it’s harder for them to focus and try to get back on track. For us, we want to get going again – the other teams haven’t felt what we felt. It’s still something that stings for us and we’re going to use it as motivation."
-Colisee Pepsi was built in 1949 and underwent major renovations in 1980. The former home of the Quebec Nordiques now sits in the shadow of a brand new multi-million dollar facility located on the same grounds. It is hoped the new arena will eventually house an NHL team.
-Quebec City last hosted the Memorial Cup tournament in 2003, with the Kitchener Rangers capturing the title in a 6-3 win over the Hull Olympiques.
-While the organizing committee is set to put on a show, Mother Nature is not cooperating. Potential record-breaking low temperatures are in the forecast for Friday night - with frost warnings in effect.
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