Rimouski's under the microscope

Ryan Pyette, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:04 PM ET

Who’s feeling the most heat at the 2009 Memorial Cup?

Just look at the head coaches’ lids, Rimouski Oceanic bench boss Clement Jodoin observed.

The former six-year Montreal Canadiens assistant pointed at his own greying locks before peering down the line at his coaching counterparts — Windsor’s Bob Boughner, Drummondville’s Guy Boucher and Kelowna’s short-cropped Ryan Huska.

“They still have their black hair,” Jodoin said jokingly, “so I guess the pressure’s with me.”

His Oceanic will be under the microscope.

They haven’t played in 23 days since getting swept by Drummondville in the Quebec league semifinals. They open the tournament tonight against Huska’s Western champion Rockets.

“I want to congratulate you — you all got in through the front door, the big door (by winning their respective leagues),” Jodoin told his counterparts.

Rimouski went through the back door. The Oceanic will be under scrutiny to live up to their competition.

Lately, it hasn’t been a problem for the Canadian Hockey League. The last time a host team didn’t win the Cup or play in the final was 2003 when Kitchener beat Hull in Quebec City.

“We belong, we definitely belong here,” said Rimouski defenceman Sebastien Piche. “We’re an older team with lots of experience. We have a great group. If anyone takes us lightly, we’re going to surprise people.”

The 21-year-old Piche played for Jodoin two years ago when their Lewiston MAINEiacs qualified for the Cup tournament in Vancouver.

But that team didn’t have to wait over three weeks between games.

“It was a unique situation as a coach,” Jodoin said. “We tested our fitness to make sure we would be ready, that was the biggest thing. You need your legs when you’re playing teams of this calibre. But we also worked on specialty teams. In tournaments like this, that’s usually what decides the outcome.”

It was certainly no fun waiting and watching.

“It would’ve been better to keep going and play in the championship,” Piche said, “but we’re rested and other teams are not. We don’t have any injuries so that’s an advantage for us. We took four days off after we lost, then we skated twice every day, five days a week, with the weekends off.

“We watched the Quebec final and followed the OHL, WHL finals on-line. We scrimmaged last week hard to get ready.

“Finally, we get to play again.”

Most consider the OHL champion Spitfires to be the Cup favourite. They’ve been at the top of the scout-fuelled rankings for much of the season.

“On paper, Windsor has a very good team,” Drummondville’s Boucher said, “but it’s not a best-of-seven. Here, every game is a seventh game and, injuries or not, it comes down to who is better on that one day.”


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