No underdogs playing in this tournament

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

There is a great deal to be said for good defence.

On the other hand, the Rimouski Oceanic and Ottawa 67's play as if defence is terribly overrated.

The Oceanic hung on for their tournament life against the no-longer-an-underdog 67's for a 4-3 win last night at the John Labatt Centre. Both teams are now 1-1 in the tournament.

It makes for entertaining, wide-open hockey. The goalies probably hate it, but it gives fans their money's worth.

A word to the wise, though. Eventually, that style of play is going to come back and bite you.

It gives credence to comments made earlier by Oceanic coach Doris Labonte about the style of play he likes and the demands he makes on his players.

"I do not understand in some leagues why they draft a player first or second because he is a good offensive player," Labonte said. "Then they say, 'You have to play defence.' "

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is known for it's free-flowing, skills-based game. It also has become known for its "you-get-him" defence. That was evident last night.

If Cedric Desjardins was anything less than outstanding, the Oceanic would be playing tonight against the Kelowna Rockets for a winner-take third-place game.

Not even the defenceman played defence last night.

It was Part II of the Sidney Crosby watch. He played better than he did against the London Knights, flashy at times, always dangerous. We still haven't seen Crosby at his best, though.

There was one standard virtually every 67's player adhered to though and that was hit Crosby whenever possible. Crosby had to put up with the close attention in Game 1 against the Knights when Brandon Prust worked him whenever possible. After the first period, Crosby was not particularly effective.

Ottawa continued the same pattern. They did as good a job of keeping him under control as they could. If they had done as good a job on the other players, it might have been a different story.

At times it looked like those whack-a-mole games at the Western Fair: Every time Crosby's head popped up, they whacked it.

The game plan has been easy to see. Play a physical game on Rimouski. Prevent them from skating. Then pressure their defence by dumping the puck in their zone. That's how you get 51 shots on net. If Rimouski continues to allow that many shots on net, they aren't going to survive.

As for the 67's, they need some tightening up of their own. And though this team has exceeded expectations, they can't afford to take any time off in the game. If they do, they get burned.

"We weren't physical in the first 40 minutes, only the last 20. If we had been physical all game, it might have been a different result," said 67's forward Mark Mancari. "We did a great job of getting the puck to the net. But we didn't do a good job of driving to the net and getting the rebounds."

Jamie McGinn got his first Memorial Cup goal, but he didn't feel like celebrating.

"It's great, but I wish I could enjoy it," McGinn said. "The win is the most important thing."

The Rockets, who play the Oceanic tonight and must win, might heed McGinn's advice.

"We wanted to let them know they weren't going to get any easy opportunities," he said. "We're a physical team and we wanted to throw the body around. It's too bad we didn't do it for the full 60 minutes."

Can the Rockets win? Why not? The Oceanic will give up a lot of chances and they don't like physical play. With a day's rest, the Rockets will be much better than they were against the Knights. Besides, no one is an underdog in this tournament.

"If anyone thinks we're the underdogs still, I don't know what they are watching," said Mancari. "We won the first game and lost this game by a goal. If they want to think of us as the underdogs, that's fine, but I think we have proved ourselves."

That was more of a warning to the Knights, who the 67's play tomorrow night.

But the Oceanic might want to listen. The defending champion Rockets aren't about to roll over for anyone.

They may just be ready to roll over someone.


Videos

Photos