Winning QMJHL crown a 'surreal feeling' for three former Islanders

Jason Malloy
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Graves, Marcotte, Bibeau going to Memorial Cup with Val-d"or Foreurs

Ryan Graves now knows he made the right decision.

In January, the Charlottetown Islanders defenceman was given the option of accepting a trade to the Val-d’Or Foreurs or remaining with the club that drafted him in the first round in 2011.

It was an agonizing choice for Graves. He eventually decided to head to Quebec, given the strong lineup the Foreurs had assembled.

Tuesday night, Graves lifted the President Cup following Val-d’Or’s Game 7 victory against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.

“It was a pretty surreal feeling,” Graves said Wednesday. “It kind of made the whole trade . . . well worth it to be able to lift that cup.”

The Foreurs lineup also included former Islanders Louick Marcotte and Antoine Bibeau, who was named the playoffs’ most valuable player.

A split-second decision by Marcotte helped lead the Foruers to victory.

Val-d’Or held a 3-0 lead midway through the third period before the host Drakkar scored three goals to tie it with 1:59 remaining.

Marcotte, 20, said he ended up with the puck with about a minute remaining following a lucky bounce off the boards in the Baie-Comeau zone.

“I was going to shoot it,” Marcotte explained Wednesday. “I saw (Anthony) Mantha on the wing. I passed it to him (for) a one-timer and he scored.”

Fifty-two seconds later the Foreurs became league champions and earned a berth in the Memorial Cup in London, Ont.

“It was the best moment of my life,” Marcotte said. “There’s nothing that can beat this.”

Marcotte was acquired a year ago, Bibeau in December and Graves in January. Bibeau said the team accepted him and Graves into the dressing room and there is great chemistry on the team.

“We worked so hard in the past month and a half and then it’s over and you’re the champions. It’s the best feeling ever,” he said.

Bibeau was named the playoffs’ most valuable player.

“He gave us a chance to win every night,” Graves said, noting he is crucial to its success given the team’s offensive style of play. “It’s indescribable what he did. That guy is a hell of a goaltender.”

Bibeau said the MVP was a bonus given the team’s success.

“I played good, but the team played really well in the playoffs. They helped me a lot.”

The three players all said their time in Charlottetown helped them grow as hockey players.

Val-d’Or had little time to celebrate their victory. They went back to Val-d’Or after Tuesday’s game and flew to London Wednesday afternoon. They play their first game at the Memorial Cup Friday against the host Knights.

“We want to win it and I think we have a good enough team to win it,” Graves said. “It’s every junior hockey players dream and we have a chance to win it here this week.”

Bibeau said Val-d’Or is a battle-tested team.

It defeated the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada at the end of the season to win the division title. It won the seventh game of the league semifinal in Halifax and the seventh game of the league championship in Baie-Comeau.

The seven-game formats are gone now, making every game important to earn a playoff spot.

“You want to play every game like it’s a Game 7,” Bibeau said, “that’s how we’re going to approach the tournament.”

Marcotte said the team is confident in its ability.

“We’re ready for Friday,” he said.

“We’ll do everything possible to bring back the cup.”

*****

When They Play

A look at the Val-d’Or Foreurs’ schedule

at the Memorial Cup in London, Ont.

All times Atlantic.

Friday

Val-d’Or vs. London, 8 p.m.

Monday

Val-d’Or vs. Guelph, 8 p.m.

Tuesday

Val-d’Or vs. Edmonton, 8 p.m.

Friday, May 23

Semifinal

Sunday, May 25

Final

Geographic location: Val, Quebec, London, Ont. Baie-Comeau London Charlottetown Halifax Guelph Edmonton

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