Quebec league champs one win away from Memorial Cup final

Val D'Or Foreurs captain Samuel Henley is sent crashing into Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Tristan...

Val D'Or Foreurs captain Samuel Henley is sent crashing into Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry by Brett Pollock after Henley scored during Memorial Cup action in London, Ont., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (Derek Ruttan/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:23 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Last year, Val d'Or's rookie GM Alexandre Rouleau promoted veteran Mario Durocher to head coach of the Foreurs.

The 30-year-old knew exactly what he was getting.

He had previously played for him.

It's a unique arrangement in hockey, for sure. But the Quebec league champs, who have showed some resilience this week in front of hot goaltender Antoine Bibeau, are a Friday semifinal win over Edmonton from playing for the Memorial Cup against Guelph Sunday at Budweiser Gardens.

“I was new to this business and Mario took good care of me,” Rouleau, the former Pittsburgh defence prospect, said. “Even though we have a new relationship, he's been awesome to me. I feel like we're partners in this good adventure and not like I'm his boss with him working under me.”

Rouleau played for the Canadian world junior team at Halifax in 2003. Durocher was an assistant coach there, assisting the young d-man with English translation.

While they were there, Rouleau was traded from Val d'Or, his team for four years, to the then Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts, the first squad, incidentally, to finish 0-3 at their own event.

“Even though Quebec was in the Cup, I was disappointed to leave my friends and family,” Rouleau said. “I was leaving my girlfriend (his wife now) to go there. Mario, along with (Canadian coach) Marc Habscheid took me aside and announced to me the trade.

“I've been some through some tough scenarios with Mario.”

In this championship season, the bond has grown. This is the experienced Durocher's sixth different Quebec league team.

“When you're a coach, you like to always have someone who's behind you in the organization – you need a post,” Durocher, who led Victoriaville to the Cup final at Guelph in 2002. “In our job, if something's not going well, you get fired. It's nice to know people around you – 'are you OK, how you feeling?'

“When the new (organization) took over in Val d'Or, at least I knew somebody. For me, it just made me a little more confident in the situation.”

Rouleau said on that first day they were together after the change, Durocher told him that whatever happens down the road, he knows it's about hockey and performance.

“He's mature enough to know job security is not a big thing in the Q,” Rouleau said. “He said he is 100 percent support me. This (job) is not intimidating but I think I have a lot to learn. One year winning the (President's) Cup is not enough. I've learned a lot the past two years, but I have more to learn.

“I have to keep myself surrounded with good hockey people like Mario. It's not a one-man show in Val d'Or.”

At times, it appears like it with Bibeau stopping pucks.

But Val d'Or has survived with their top defenceman Guillaume Gelinas a likely game-time decision to play Friday with his knee contusion. He practised on Thursday, didn't finish, and won't be 100% – but he will be close to a return.

If he can't, Durocher will have to find a way to squeeze everything out of the remaining players, who earned the extra day of rest with their double-overtime triumph against Edmonton Tuesday night.

This is a special week for two former world junior friends now re-united in tiny Val d'Or. Rouleau was part of the 2001 Foreurs team that won the league title and has watched that old excitement rekindled.

“Back then, we won the (President's Cup) on the road in Bathurst and got back to the airport the same night, too, just like in Baie-Comeau this year,” Rouleau said. “I feel the love has not changed. At 3 a.m., six-, seven-, eight-year-olds there to see the players, it was awesome. Our players were more excited, almost, than the fans. They were filming them with their phones. It was funny.”

It's an unforgettable one, fueled at the top by an unlikely partnership.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress


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