Nerves, Pressure, Excitement and Opportunity

The QMJHL President Cup Champion Shawinigan Cataractes will be in tough tonight when they take on the Edmonton Oil Kings. All of the top CHL prognosticators have the Oil Kings pegged as tournament favorites. You don’t get to this point of the season if you haven’t dealt and conquered adversity. The Cataractes were bombarded with their share of challenges over the course of the season and passed every test with flying colours. The real question or potential concern that any team may have at the Memorial Cup is nerves and the pressure of the moment.

Photo Credit Vincent Ethier

Obviously, every team has prepared for this and are battled tested with the exception of the host team Sea Dogs, but they earned their chops last night.  There’s pressure, but this type of pressure is different. The unknown and uncertainty of the opponent and moment can create an element of self-doubt which can be disastrous.

The Cataractes must weather the early storm of momentum and manage their emotions for the first five minutes of the game. They will need to get settled in while relying on and trusting their brand of hockey if they want to be successful against the Oil Kings. You can count on a steady diet of the Cataractes top six to start the game. Head Coach Daniel Renaud will gauge the reaction and stress levels of his players and will shuffle the lines accordingly.

Shawinigan’s depth has been called into question all season long, especially throughout their championship run. A perceived weakness has turned into a strength for the Cataractes.

Shawinigan are a transitional team that love to attack and create havoc off the rush, but can wear down a team in the cycle game as well. Ultimately, the first sign of any team that is fragile in the nerves department is puck movement and management. The Oil Kings defensive corps will be more than ready to handle the Cataractes offensive onslaught. Nevertheless, the Charlottetown Islanders found out the hard way when it came to how lethal the Cataractes power play really is. If the Cataractes can manage the puck and their nerves while getting their speed game going, they will ultimately cause tons of issues for the Oil Kings.

The second indication of potential nerves is usually found between the pipes. The Cataractes tandem of Charles-Antoine Lavallee and Antoine Coulombe were very good in their run to QMJHL glory. Nevertheless, Coulombe was pulled on a few occasions and Lavallee took the ball and ran with it. Renaud trusts his tandem, but when it comes to playing under the bright lights of the Memorial Cup, things could get very interesting. One wouldn’t be wise to bet against either Lavallee or Coulombe. Both netminders have showed tremendous resiliency throughout the season and arguably throughout their entire QMJHL careers. They have proved the critics wrong before and there’s nothing stopping them from doing it again. An “us against the world” mentality can take you a long way in the game of the hockey and it might just take the Cataractes to the promiseland.

Nerves and pressure are often overcome by confidence and trust. There’s a massive difference between nerves and excitement.

The Shawinigan Cataractes are QMJHL champions for a reason. Trust and confidence run deep in the organization, they are excited for the opportunity, but the nerves are still going to exist.

The nerves and uncertainty of the moment will be a daunting for the President Cup Champions. It may all come down to nerves tonight, but rest assured, the Shawinigan Cataractes have gamebreakers to turn the tables and put an enormous amount of pressure on any opponent.

Don’t forget the Shawinigan Cataractes took down a lot of good teams to get to this point, they have earned everything that has come their way, they are champions for a reason.

Nerves, pressure, excitement and opportunity, this is what it’s all about, this is why you lace them up. The Shawinigan Cataractes are ready to make their statement at the 2022 Memorial Cup.

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