Don't count out the Oceanic

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:10 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- A moment for the Rimouski Oceanic, No. 2 and trying harder.

The Oceanic play the London Knights for the Memorial Cup today in front of a stacked house in London.

Thanks to Sidney Crosby's three-goal, five-point effort last night, no eye will be cast past No. 87 in assessing Rimouski's chances.

When they win, as they did 7-4 last night, the Oceanic are a one-man team, and that's easy enough to understand. Crosby scored three times and added two helpers.

When they lose, as they did in the opener of the Memorial Cup to London, the reason is the same.

Now it is true that no player is more important to his team as Crosby, who leads the tournament with six goals and 11 points.

And yes, he was magical again yesterday.

One goal was a shot placed under the crossbar. Another was a nimble tip and yet another was a floater from the blue line, a meaningless flub by Ottawa goalie Danny Battochio late in the contest.

But Stop Crosby, Hold Parade is a little too simple a game plan.

"We've got a lot of guys who can do the job," Crosby said last night.

"Sure the spotlight has been on me a lot this season but I'm lucky to be playing with guys who don't mind. They make me a better player and I try to make them better."

So far, so good.

Take a look at the scoresheet from last night. Defenceman Patrick Coulombe scored twice. Pesky Mario Scalzo Jr. scored and added two more.

Crosby's linemate Dany Roussin pocketed four assists and was dangerous all night.

"You know," said London captain Will Corbet, "they went undefeated in 35 games. Teams don't do that with just one line."

I'd take Rimouski goalie Cedrick Desjardins over London goalie Adam Dennis in a New York minute.

Desjardins surrendered one soft goal last night but thrives on work and, heaven knows, the Knights will bring plenty.

"If you like pressure, then I'm in a good place for it," he shrugged, relishing the thought.

"It happens one time in your life."

The Oceanic have one more weapon -- their one-eyed coach.

Always arresting, it is nonetheless easy to look past Doris Labonte.

He refers to the Conn Smythe as Connie. His English isn't perfect, and the allusions he reaches for can be bizarre.

When he berates an official behind the bench, his prosthesis eye akimbo, he bears a startling similarity to Herbert Lom's Chief Inspector Dreyfuss, driven mad by Peter Sellers's Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies.

We like our coaches in cutouts, and Doris Labonte just doesn't fit.

But he is going for his second Memorial Cup with the Oceanic, having won in 2000. Kilrea has won two, but no one has won three.

The Oceanic were barely a .500 team when Labonte, who had moved upstairs after 2000, fired coach Donald Dufresne and returned to the bench in November.

A 35-game undefeated streak followed. If Kilrea had turned that trick, he would be up for canonization.

In a well-officiated game, the Oceanic have a chance. They lost the opener 4-3 after Desjardins was run repeatedly by Danny Fritsche. The Knights dove more often than Greg Louganis and they manhandled Crosby.

"I hope we're going to see a fair game," said Labonte, who scolded London for complaining about extra equipment on Desjardins' goalie skates.

DIVING

"On the ice, what we saw in the first game, the charging, running the goalie, and there were some dives. I'm not there to ref the game. I just hope we get a fair game."

I do, too.

The Rimouski Oceanic can win.

If the Knights expect a coronation, there will be tears in town tonight.


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