Mavrik Bourque is happy to rub shoulders with the elite of Canadian junior hockey

Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press

SAINT-JEAN, N.-B. — Mavrik Bourque and Xavier Bourgault played under the spotlight for two games at the World Junior Championship, before the event was postponed to this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic .

The two forwards hope to shine again, this time in the uniform of the Shawinigan Cataractes, during the Memorial Cup.

“In my mind, the World Juniors was big. There, I realize that the Memorial Cup is almost as big, underlined Bourque, Monday. It’s gonna be fun. And it will also be a good experience to prepare for the next level.”

Bourque and Bourgault, first-round picks of the 2020 Dallas Stars and 2021 Edmonton Oilers respectively, will face the top teams in the Canadian Hockey League in a bid to win the Canadian junior crown.

If Bourque seemed to be salivating at the idea of ​​rubbing shoulders with the elite of Canadian junior hockey, his head coach Daniel Renaud did not see the Memorial Cup as a particularly special stage in his development.

“During any event, match, training, gym or video session, a real player will try to extract the maximum to improve,” said Renaud. There’s not a day when he’s going to show up without the best attitude to get even a grain of salt that will help him.

“So I expect them to live the 10 days intensely to maximize their development.”

Bourque and Bourgault will find on their way some players they rubbed shoulders with the Canadian team at the World Juniors, in particular Kaiden Guhle and Jake Neighbors, of the Edmonton Oil Kings. They will meet on Tuesday night, in the first match of the tournament for both teams.

“You always want to compare yourself to the best, to face the best,” Bourque said. It will be fun to play against some of the big names in Canadian junior hockey.

“It’s good to be challenged like this.”

Bourque is especially looking forward to playing against Neighbors, captain of the Oil Kings. They became friends by being part of the Canadian team at different tournaments.

“I remember that we were told at the U17 World Cup that we would face each other one day at the Memorial Cup,” said Bourque.

Confident players

According to most observers, the Oil Kings and the Hamilton Bulldogs are the favorites. The members of the Cataractes are comfortable with the negligee label, a label they have carried throughout the playoffs in the QMJHL.

“I think we only played one game with a full roster after Christmas,” confirmed Bourque after checking the many injuries that plagued the Cataractes this season. Since the beginning of the playoffs, when we have a complete formation, we have nothing to reproach ourselves for. We eliminated three teams from the top-5.

“Maybe we are the disadvantaged in the eyes of some, but we have confidence in our group,” added the man who amassed 68 points in 31 games this season before adding 25 points in 16 games during the playoffs.

Players admitted the challenge was important, but that’s not going to scare them away.

“We don’t have to be jealous or intimidated by anyone,” insisted Renaud. In the end, I repeat myself, but we focus on how we play. When we respect our style of play, that’s where we are effective.

Renaud did not want to confirm whether Charles-Antoine Lavallée or Antoine Coulombe will be his starting goaltender against the Oil Kings. Coulombe made 13 outings during the QMJHL playoffs, compared to five for Lavallée.

However, he indicated that his players had to attend the first period of the duel between the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Bulldogs on Monday, in order to soak a little in the bath of the Memorial Cup before their first meeting.

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