N.A. Juniors Memorial Cup Game Night: 5/20
Drummondville Voltigeurs 3 vs. Rimouski Oceanic 2 (OT) (Round Robin)
W/C Luca Cunti, RIM: 1-0-1,-1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
MemCup totals: 3 GP, 2-0-2, -3, 2 PIM
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 4-5-9, -2, 12 PIM
Season totals: 57 GP, 20-25-45, +10, 32 PIM
Rimouski dominated the Volts â€“ who had dominated them in a 4-0 playoff sweep weeks earlier â€“ but they simply couldnâ€™t figure out Volts goaltender Marco Cousineau (Ducks). Cousineau was outstanding in this game, making up for a very sub-par effort against Windsor the previous night.
Cunti scored the Oceanicâ€™s opening goal when he darted through the blue ice and knocked a rebound under Cousineau. The 'Nics outshot the Volts 41-20 and out chanced them by a large margin, also. Gabriel Dumont (N.A. No. 153 for 2009 draft) scored the OT winner on one of the few Drummondville chances when he won the puck along the sidewall from Felix Lefrancois (undrafted, unranked), darted into the middle, eluding Rimouskiâ€™s top defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon (Flyers), who tried to knock him over but missed horribly, then proceeded to get multiple shots on sprawled-out Rimouski goaltender Maxim Gougeon (undrafted) while Cunti weakly attempted to tie up his stick. Dumontâ€™s second shot went in over the outstretched arm of Gougeon, and Drummondville was sent on to the semifinals.
Rimouski (1-2) will play in a rematch with Windsor (1-2) â€“ a hard-fought 5-4 Oceanic win days ago â€“ in a tiebreaker game to produce the second semifinalist. NHL Network will have the game Thursday night.
For more on Cuntiâ€™s performance, see Peteâ€™s blog.
Note: Current Bolt Vincent Lecavalier and Lightning Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards were honored before the game by the Oceanic for their contributions to the team. Former Lightning Michel Ouellet was also present for the ceremonial face-off. Richards' No.39 and Lecavalier's No.4 are hanging in the Rimouski rafters. Both are considered legends in the small Quebec hockey-heavy city. Richards won MVP as he led the Oceanic to a Memorial Cup championship in Halifax in 2000.
Luca Cunti's such a mixed bag it's maddening.
Once again, Cunti showed himself to be an impact player offensively in Rimouski's 3-2 overtime loss to Drummondville tonight. At the opening of the game, he really put his playmaking skills on display setting up at least 5 scoring chances early on, by my count, with several crisp, long tape-to-tape passes in the offensive zone. In the second period he scored Rimouski's opening goal poking in a rebound after a nice forechecking shift by his line. He's not exactly known for his physical bravery, and in fact in the first period he had a clear opportunity to step out in from of the Volts net for a stuff attempt and he shied away from it, but he went to the net for a little drive by and got a rebound to poke in for his goal. Shortly after that he almost set up another goal on a rush where he got a step on Dimitry Kulikov, who fell down on the play, around the corner with his speed and sent a nice, soft saucer pass to Keven Veilleux who was stopped cold on the bid. My one criticism of him early on, aside from his unwillingness to step out for the stuff attempt, is that he hesitates when he has a shot available. He looks to pass first, and he needs to understand that if you have the puck open in a scoring position, you have to shoot the puck. Force the goaltender to make a stop and give yourself the possibility of a rebound for your teammates. The stat page doesn't care if your assist comes from a brilliant cross ice pass across the seam or a rebound that becomes a garbage goal. An assist is an assist, so shoot the puck.
Unfortunately, Cunti was partially to blame for Drummondville's tying goal and no one picked up Jonathan Brunelle going to the net and taking a pass from behind the Rimouski cage. I'm not sure, watching the replay, that Brunelle was actually Cunti's responsibility. However, if he's open and you're right there, you take the guy and ask question later. And the soft play continued in the third period, as Cunti was clearly the weak link for Rimouski on the forecheck. He simply won't turn his back and take a hit to keep possession of the puck. Won't do it. So, as well as his line played, he was the weak link that would often cause them to lose possession. Now, on the good side, he was single handedly beating Drummondville's trap with his speed and stickhandling ability just to get his line into the zone in the first place.
In overtime, Cunti's night ended badly as Gabriel Dumont beat two Rimouski defenders to get to the front of the net where Luca, much like the Brunelle goal, pretty much stood there and watched him score the goal from point blank range. Cunti has to eliminate Dumont physically on that play. At the very least tackle the guy, but preferably lower the boom and knock the guy down. Instead Cunti vacantly tried to tie up his stick and that was it. Now Rimouski has to play a tiebreaker game tomorrow night against Windsor just to get to the semifinal game. That's not good, especially considering what a tough game Windsor was for Rimouski to pull out the last time.
I love his speed. I love his skill. I don't think he's hopeless defensively or even physically because his skating always puts him in the neighborhood he needs to be in. He's not so selfish that he's out at the red line constantly cherry picking and waiting for breakways. That's not what he does. But he has got to start to compete physically. He doesn't have to become Cam Neely overnight. That's not the point. But he's got to turn his back and take a hit to keep possession for his line on the forecheck. He's got to physically take out his man on coverage in front of the net if the puck comes to the front of the net. If he has a clear avenue to step out in front of the net, he has to show physical bravery to go there and score goals. Basically, he's got the athletic foundation to be a very good player. He just needs to man up. He's an NHLer if he grows some manhood. He'll be right back playing for a team like Bern or Lugano in the NL/A back in Switzerland if he doesn't.