Six-foot-nine Boston Bruins blue-liner Zdeno Chara will soon have company looking down at the rest of the NHL.
Another giant defenceman — Buffalo Sabres first-rounder Tyler Myers — has the Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets soaring after sinking the host Oceanic 4-1 in last night’s Memorial Cup opener before 4,695 at the Rimouski Colisee.
The six-foot-seven, 211-pounder from DeWinton, Alta., scored the tournament’s first goal 6:33 into the first period, added two assists and was a plus-three against a Rimouski club playing its first game in 23 days.
“Because we have the same body types, we’ll look at him (Chara) to see how he positions himself on the ice,” the 19-year-old Myers said, “but there are a lot of other good players in the NHL you can watch, too.”
Myers’ Rockets teammate and fellow Canadian world junior gold medalist Jamie Benn also had a goal and three points. He notices the big effect his large friend brings every day to the hockey arena.
“He’s great to go up against in practice,” Benn said. “We don’t get by him very often (in drills) so when we do, we let him know about it.”
Kelowna got the fast start it wanted against a jacked-up home crowd. The Rockets outshot Rimouski 12-2 midway through the first period.
“Our goal every game is to come out hard,” Myers said. “I was more impressed with our penalty kill, especially on the (two lengthy) five-on-threes. It’s all right for Game 1 but as we go on, we have to cut down on our penalties.”
The Oceanic chalked up a tough first period and the power-play failure to game rust.
“We only practised for the past three weeks and they just came off the most intense hockey they played all year in their league final,” Rimouski defenceman Marc-Andre Bourdon. “The power plays, the puck was bouncing and there were some one-timers we missed. We didn’t have our usual finish.
“But it got better as the game went on and that’s a good sign for the rest of the tournament.”
Oceanic forward Philippe Cornet broke Kelowna goalie Mark Guggenberger’s shutout bid with 6:56 left in the game. The Rockets outshot Rimouski 42-20.
The victory was Kelowna’s first in the tournament since hoisting the Cup on home ice in 2004. The Rockets went 0-3 in 2005 at London in a frustrating week that began with a loss to OHL runner-up Ottawa in the longest game in Cup history (a double-overtime affair lasting 95 minutes, 41 seconds).
Top-ranked OHL champ Windsor begins its Cup run this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. against the banged-up Drummondville Voltigeurs. The Spitfires also started against Drummondville in its previous tournament appearance in 1988 at Chicoutimi.
Windsor won, 8-3.