On the morning of May 24, 2012, the Shawinigan Cataractes found themselves in a bit of a spot.
The host team for the 2012 Memorial Cup tournament was going to have to defeat three league champions over the next four days if it was to win the first championship in franchise history.
Impossible? Well . . . no team had ever performed such a feat, and this had been a four-team affair since 1983.
The Cataractes, coached by Eric Veilleux, were up against Gerard Gallant’s Saint John Sea Dogs, who also were the defending champions; Mark Hunter’s London Knights; and Derek Laxdal’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
The tournament opened at the Centre Bionest on May 18, with Edmonton beating Shawinigan, 4-3.
Over the next three days, London beat Saint John, 5-3; Shawinigan dumped London; 6-2; and Saint John got past Edmonton, 5-2. That left all four teams at 1-1.
In the last two round-robin games, London defeated Edmonton, 4-1, and Saint John dumped Shawinigan, also 4-1. It all meant that London was into the final, Saint John was into the semifinal, and the other two would meet in a tiebreaker.
Of course, it also meant that Shawinigan had that tough road ahead of itself.
The Cataractes began on May 24 with a 6-1 victory over Edmonton in the tiebreaker, thanks to two first-period goals and four more in the second.
The next night, Shawinigan took out Saint John, 7-4, as Yannick Veilleux broke a 4-4 tie at 13:14 of the third period. The winners got two goals and an assist from Michael Chaput, a goal and two helpers from Brandon Gormley, and three assists from Anton Zlobin.
With two league champions down, Shawinigan faced London in the final on May 27, and beat the Knights, 2-1 in overtime, as Zlobin scored both goals, the winner coming on a quick shot from the right circle at 17:51 of extra time.
“I just saw Zubie shoot and the light go on and I knew we won,” Chaput said. ”I was ecstatic.”
The winners also got a big game from goaltender Gabriel Girard, who stopped 34 shots.
“He played the best game of his life,” Chaput said of Girard. “Without him, we wouldn’t have won this championship.”
Chaput was named the MVP after leading the tournament in assists (7) and points (12).
Zlobin, a 19-year-old sophomore from Moscow, had scored 40 goals in the regular season. He added five goals and four assists in the tournament.
“I just shoot the puck with all I can,” Zlobin said. “After when I see red light, I’m so excited. It was an amazing night. The most important night in my life.”
This was the eighth time since 1983 that the final went to overtime, but the first time since 2001.
2012 Shawinigan Cataractes
Vincent Arseneau, Felix-Antoine Bergeron, Michael Bournival, Michael Chaput, Dillon Donnelly, Alex Dubeau, Morgan Ellis, Mathieu Gagnon, Frederick Gaudreau, Gabriel Girard, Brandon Gormley, Alexandre Grandmaison, Justin Hache, Kirill Kabanov, Dylan Labbe, Maximilien Le Sieur, Mitchell Maynard, Pierre-Olivier Morin, Jonathan Narbonne, Loik Poudrier, Jonathan Racine, Peter Sakaris, Yannick Veilleux, Patrick Volpe, Anton Zlobin, Martin Mondou (manager), Eric Veilleux (coach).