SHAWINIGAN, QUE. - There is no easing your way into a tsunami.
No such thing as feeling out a swarm of angry bees.
It's either go hard or go home, soaking wet and covered in stings.
The Edmonton Oil Kings understand there will be no time to get settled in at the Mastercard Memorial Cup before the Shawinigan Cataractes and their hostile fans start making them feel unwelcome Friday night.
They're cool with that.
"After the game I talked to my dad and he said you've got Shawinigan the opening game of the tournament," Edmonton defenceman Keegan Lowe said, counting down the minutes till the Oil Kings and Cataractes get it on. "I was really excited to hear that."
Nothing against the hosts, Lowe and the Oil Kings just love it loud.
"Playing in Portland (in the WHL final), their fans were unreal there," Lowe said. "As far as I'm concerned, it helps the away team just as much as it helps the home team get psyched up for the game. That will be a really cool start."
The Shawinigan faithful have been waiting more than a year for this thing to begin, and drawing the hated West in the first game will turn the heat up even higher.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," Oil Kings netminder Laurent Brossoit said. "I kind of want the home crowd right off the bat, just get right into the atmosphere, right into the game mode."
Besides, said Edmonton forward T.J. Foster, the 5,000 seat Bionest Centre can't be any worse than what those 11,000 fans rained down on them in Portland.
"That crowd was crazy," he said. "I've never seen anything like that."
Having been through that pressure-cooker with Portland, the Oil Kings don't think nerves or pressure or atmosphere will be much of an issue at all.
"Playing such a long series, the adversity we faced really helped us out," Brossoit said. "You kind of want to go through games like that because it helps you when you get into those close nail-biters, like these tournaments, where you only have one chance. We're prepared for it."
Shifting from best-of-seven mode to single-game round-robin and single-game playoff elimination can be a tough adjustment for some, but the Oil Kings, coming off that all-or-nothing game against Portland five days ago, say they're ready.
"Our team really answered a lot of questions about our group and the growth of our hockey club from Game 6 to Game 7," coach Derek Laxdal said. "We're going to use the same formula coming into the Memorial Cup."
They expect to have their hands full right off the bat. The host Cataractes could be the tournament sleeper, finishing second in the QMJHL standings to the Saint John juggernaut and allowing the fewest goals in their league. They're not getting much respect as the host team, but Laxdal has seen enough film to know they're for real.
"They have a deep back end, a lot of speed up front and they had a great regular season," Laxdal said. "I know they didn't have the regular season they wanted, but they had 45 wins, they're playing in front of their home crowd and they have lots of energy. We have to be ready for the first 10 minutes because the kids are going to be excited to play. It's going to be one outstanding game."
The Cataractes, idle since being upset April 17 in the second round of the playoffs, had plenty of time to get themselves ready for opening night. They're been waiting a month for this, so they'll be coming hard.
"It's going to be a crazy building and we have to feed off the fans," Shawinigan defenceman Brandon Gormley said. "There have been a lot of anxious times here the last few days, looking forward to that first puck drop."