LONDON, Ont. – The Val-d’Or Foreurs made it to the Memorial Cup semifinal thanks to their workhorse goaltender and their ability to hang around like a bad cold.
The Foreurs were outshot 50-33 by the Edmonton Oil Kings and trailed twice in regulation, yet pulled out a 4-3 win in double overtime Tuesday.
Centre Anthony Richard ended the marathon at Budweiser Gardens by scoring on a breakaway at 1:15 in the second overtime.
It was the second time in this tournament the opposition put 50 shots on goaltender Antoine Bibeau and Val-d’Or emerged with a one-goal victory.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions concluded their preliminary round 2-1. They’ll play in Friday’s semifinal with the victor advancing to Sunday’s championship game against the Ontario Hockey League champions the Guelph Storm.
The host London Knights and Storm conclude the preliminary round Wednesday in a clash of OHL rivals.
Guelph is already in Sunday’s final at 2-0. The winless Knights need a victory to avoid elimination and force a tiebreaker game against the Oil Kings at 1-2.
Val-d’Or went the full seven games to win both their semifinal and final series in the QMJHL playoffs. The Foreurs had just three days between winning Game 7 in Baie-Comeau, Que., and beating the host Knights 1-0 to open the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
For those reasons, Richard was elated with his double overtime winner.
“It’s huge for us because we played two series in seven games in the Q and we need some rest,” said the 17-year-old from Trois-Rivieres, Que. “That two days off is huge for us.”
Depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s game, the Oil Kings will have a rematch with the Foreurs on Friday or take on the Knights in a tiebreaker Thursday.
“I thought we deserved a better fate,” Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said. “We have to respond and be more resilient.”
The Oil Kings lost in a tiebreaker to the host and eventual champion Shawinigan Cataractes at the 2012 Memorial Cup.
After falling 6-3 to Guelph the previous night, most of the Foreurs shaved off their playoff beards, but for no particular reason they said.
Pierre-Maxime Poudrier scored on a short-handed breakaway in the second period for the fresh-faced Foreurs. Captain Samuel Henley tied the game in the third period to force overtime and Shawn Ouellette-St-Amant also contributed a goal.
But Val-d’Or was able to stay on Edmonton’s heels because of Bibeau. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect stopped 47 shots, including a penalty shot by Edgars Kulda in the first period.
Bibeau posted a 51-save shutout in Val-d’Or’s first game of the tournament against London. He also denied Knights forward Bo Horvat on a third-period penalty shot in that game.
“Antoine is just awesome,” Henley said. “He keeps us in the game every time. He keeps everyone calm in the room. He’s such a good goalie, a good teammate and a good player. We probably wouldn’t have won the game without him.”
Curtis Lazar had a goal and an assist for the Oil Kings, who led 2-0 after the opening period. Reid Petryk also scored for the Western Hockey League champions and Henrik Samuelsson temporarily restored Edmonton’s lead early in the third.
“When you get the chances to put away a team like Val-d’Or, you have to take it,” Lazar said. “We were unable to do that and got into a little bit of a marathon.”
It was the sixth game in Memorial Cup history to go to double overtime, but it wasn’t nearly the longest.
London happens to be the site of the longest game in Memorial Cup history. The Ottawa 67’s downed the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 after 95 minutes 41 seconds in 2005.
Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry made 29 saves in defeat in front of 8,745 fans, but the seats thinned out considerably by the start of the second overtime.
The year’s Memorial Cup is 0-for-3 in penalty shots as Jarry denied London’s Ryan Rupert on Sunday.
Foreurs defenceman Guillaume Gelinas did not play Tuesday. Assistant coach Mark Pietroniro said earlier in the day Gelinas suffered a “knee contusion” in Monday’s collision with Guelph’s Chadd Bauman.
Val-d’Or’s top defenceman joined his teammates for warmup, but spent most of it standing beside the boards looking sore. Gelinas left the ice before his teammates did.
The Canadian Hockey League fined the host Knights $1,000 for criticizing the officials following Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Oil Kings.