A duel of titans in opening
The amateurs could not hope better. The two favorite clubs to win top honors in the QMJHL do not waste time before competing. Ranked this week in second place in the Canadian Hockey League, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens visit the Palais des Sports on Friday night for the opening game of the Phoenix, ranked ninth in the CHL.
Along as the experts see the Chicoutimi enthroned atop the Eastern Association, the Phoenix is considered the most formidable team in the West. But it will probably be without his captain Samuel Poulin that the Sherbrooke club will have to deal with his first opponents of the 2019-2020 season.
“We do not choose our opponents, but as a first part, it will be exciting, admits coach Stéphane Julien. I never really paid attention to this ranking. I do not know much about other teams. It’s hard to compare them. But it’s interesting to see that in the first game of the season, the two best teams in the QMJHL on paper will compete. ”
“We know that the Saguenéens will form an excellent team this season,” said Xavier Parent, but we want to prove that the Phoenix will also be dangerous, so that’s why we want to win this first game. ”
Hlavaj on the scene
The Phoenix fans will soon be able to form an opinion on the new European goalkeeper, Samuel Hlavaj, since he has won the confidence of his coaches and will be in front of the net in the opening match.
“Sam is a very imposing goalkeeper physically, notes Stéphane Julien. He is probably the keeper who has been handling the puck better around his net for the first eight years of the Phoenix. To beat him, the chance to score must be very dangerous. He is also very discreet in the locker room, but he acts professionally in doing his business seriously. ”
The performance of Samuel Hlavaj is not the only reassuring element in the Sherbrooke clan.
“There were a lot more positive things than I would have imagined at this camp,” says Julien. The players arrived in great shape. I was impressed by the intensity of the guys during training and during the pre-games. ”
All indications are that Captain Samuel Poulin will not be back from Pittsburgh in time for the Friday night game. The Penguins’ first choice in 2019 was playing a second pre-season game Thursday night in Columbus and has not been cut off yet. At best, the Phoenix hopes to see him in uniform Saturday at 6 pm at the Palais against the Gatineau Olympiques.
“No one asked me about Samuel this week. We did not really talk about his presence or his absence. Since he left for Pittsburgh, the other players have insured and managed to win several games despite everything. They do not think at all that it’s lost in advance. ”
“Sam gives me news every day, informs his good friend Xavier Parent. We wish him to stay in Pittsburgh. But in reality, all the players look at him from a distance and hope he comes back, because he will be one of the best players in the QMJHL if he plays with us. ”
“We really hope to see him at the end of the week,” defender Gregory Kreutzer said. It’s our captain, after all. He seems to be doing well in Pittsburgh and everyone is happy for him, but it would be a great advantage to be able to bet on a player of his caliber this season. “