When the Shawinigan Cataractes bowed out to Chicoutimi in the second round of the QMJHL President’s Cup playoffs, they were determined to not take anything for granted.
As the host city of the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup, the Cataractes were automatically reserved a seat at the table – but Michael Chaput wanted nothing to do with that mindset. They were one of the top teams in the QMJHL all season long and earned the opportunity to play as a high seed, making their early exit difficult to digest.
But they had to get right back on the horse and prepare for the Memorial Cup, which was taking place at their very own Centre Bionest in less than two weeks. Head coach Eric Veilleux and his staff wanted the Cataractes to treat it like a fresh start, and ensure that when the tournament started, they would be playing their best hockey.
Mission accomplished. Shawinigan made its way to the Memorial Cup final the hard way, losing two of their first four games in the Memorial Cup before finding another level in the elimination round. The Cataractes beat Edmonton, defending champion Saint John, and the high-powered London Knights en route to the organization’s first Memorial Cup.
“You try not to think about it too much, because you’ll just tell yourself ‘oh, we have a free ticket into the Memorial Cup, we don’t have to play hard,’” Chaput said. “But we tried not to think about it, and just focused on the playoffs and win our league. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that, but we focused on the Memorial Cup and what we had to do to win the Memorial Cup. We worked very hard and we achieved our goal.”
Was the early dismissal from the President’s Cup a wake-up call? Chaput thinks so.
|Chaput and teammates celebrate a goal in the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, Que. |
“If you look at it, you’d think it was perfect for us to get out in the second round,” he said. “But it’s not fun to lose in the second round because we had a good team, and we finished second in the league. Our goal was to win the President’s Cup and move on to the Memorial Cup and walk in the front door.
“I guess we walked in the back door, but we did our job and we won the Cup.”
Chaput was the catalyst for the Cataractes in their run to the championship. He put 12 points during the Memorial Cup tournament (tied with Gilbert Brule for most all-time) and was awarded the Stafford Smythe trophy as MVP.
His junior hockey career came to a close after the Memorial Cup, and after signing an entry-level deal with the Blue Jackets just prior to the tournament, the preparation for professional hockey is officially under way. At the 2011 trade deadline, though, Chaput already felt like he was part of the NHL – his rights were dealt from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Blue Jackets in a trade which sent Tom Sestito the other way.
Despite the element of “unknown” that comes with being traded during the junior hockey season (and knowing little about his new team), Chaput was excited to join the Blue Jackets and said his goal is to make the team out of training camp this fall.
“I knew I was going to Columbus, but I hadn’t been here before,” Chaput siad. “It’s always fun when a team comes and gets you through a trade, and it’s pretty funny to get traded in the NHL when you haven’t even played a game yet. I embraced the experience and the opportunity, and I’m going to try hard to make this team.
“You try to show up at camp as ready as you can be. I’m going to work hard all summer, and just come in here, be confident, and play my game. You come into training camp and tryouts to make the team, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. If I don’t, hopefully I will go to Springfield, and from there, we’ll see what happens.”
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