We are just over 48 hours away from the Centennial Cup's opening puck drop.
Teams are beginning to arrive in Portage as they prepare for, what will be for many, the biggest tournament of their life. One team with quite a far journey is the Quebec Junior Hockey League (LHJAAAQ) winner, Cobras de Terrebonne.
They punched their ticket to the Centennial Cup by going through a few great goaltenders, according to head coach Robert Dubuc. To close out the first round, they needed 81 shots to pick up the triple-overtime victory, and in the finals, they ran into another netminder who was standing on his head the whole series.
"Condors Du Cégep Beauce-Appalaches' goalie was outstanding. I know that we lost a game in overtime where we had about 52 shots to their 27 shots. He won them that game," Dubuc continues. "This was a very good way to prepare for the national tournament. I'm very happy to have gone through the adversity because during the season we didn't have much of it."
The Cobras finished their regular season with a record of 42-5-1 and entered the postseason with 12 wins in their last 13 games. However, it took Terrebonne a full seven games to handle their business in the finals.
Dubuc says it was hard to make adjustments during the year as they were winning games, even when he believed they weren't playing well. When the head coach did need to switch up their game plan, he was extremely happy with how his team responded.
"They showed us that any adjustment we have to do, we'll do it quickly between periods or even during the game on the bench. That's key for us because we didn't have that during the year," Dubuc explains. "Sometimes during the year, we were just playing to play. We would try to make adjustments but we have a lot of talent, and someone would just pull up from anywhere to score goals and win games. They really showed their engagement and will to win during the playoffs."
While they faced a few phenomenal goaltenders throughout the postseason, Terrebonne is home to one of the top five goaltenders in Junior A hockey. Alexandre Marchand is one of the five finalists for the Canadian Junior Hockey League's Top Goaltender Award, with only one other finalist getting a shot to win the Centennial Cup (Josh Kotai, Battleford North Stars).
Félicitations à Alexandre Marchand qui figure parmi la liste des 5 finalistes en vue du titre de "MVP" de la saison 2022-23 au Canada! 🇨🇦— Cobras de Terrebonne (@cobraterrebonne) May 5, 2023
Canadian Junior Hockey League#UneHistoireDeFierté l #LHJAAAQ pic.twitter.com/pkg0YnM9gp
Marchand led the league in both goals-against-average (2.08) and save percentage (0.929) while finishing the season with an incredible record of 30-1-1. Marchand's backup also has quite the resume, as Nikolas Hurtubise had a 14-4 record last year with the Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)
The goalies may be the players that jump off the page but Dubuc believes depth is what will give them the ability to win the entire tournament.
"Honestly, goaltending is one of our strong suits but my D-core is good, too, and my top six has a lot of skill. I went to the Centennial Cup in 2016-17, and we were beaten by Cale Makar in the semi-final with the Brooks Bandits. We didn't have the depth of the team we have this year. We have two goalies, seven D, and 14 forwards that can play. On D, we have two guys that played in the QMJHL for the last three years, and we're very pleased about that."
Dubuc thinks having previous experience at the Centennial Cup should give them an edge over a lot of the competition.
"We're just happy to go there. The first time we went, I think we were very happy to go there and didn't know what to expect. Now, we know," says Dubuc. "Like I told the players, when we hit Winnipeg, and we go to Portage, we want them to feel at home. If we feel at home and we feel comfortable, my team is allowed to dream about (winning)."
Cobras de Terrebonne's Centennial Cup debut will go down on Friday morning against the Ottawa Jr. Senators.