QUEBEC CITY – As Zachary Fucale closes out his Junior career, he’s savoring the entire Memorial Cup experience.
Just a few hours away from celebrating his 20th birthday, Fucale clearly isn’t the same goaltender he was when he participated in the Memorial Cup for the first time two years ago. Back then, the young netminder finished the tournament in style by winning it all as a member of the Halifax Mooseheads.
|Zachary Fucale (Steve Poirier - HHOF Images) |
Now a grizzled veteran of the QMJHL ranks who ranks third in league history in wins among goaltenders, Fucale is ready for the next step of his development : the start of his pro career this fall. Before making that all-important jump, though, he’s looking to soak up anything and everything from his second career trip to the Memorial Cup and add a second Canadian title to his resume.
“It’s different this time around because my time in Junior is coming to an end. I’m not taking anything for granted. I don’t want to look back later on and say that I should’ve enjoyed myself more. I won’t make that mistake,” admitted Fucale, who boasts a 1-0-1 record and a 3.48 goals-against average in two outings during the 2015 Memorial Cup. “In the locker room, our mentality is to enjoy it all and give everything we’ve got every game. We’re thinking that way because it will all be over eventually and things will go back to normal. But, we’re very confident in terms of what we think we can accomplish in the tournament.”
Confident that they can claim the top prize at the annual event, Fucale and the Remparts are counting on the unwavering support of the local fans, a luxury that was afforded to them as the host team this year. That support has the Rosemere native playing in a far different environment than the one he was exposed to in Saskatoon in 2013. It’s a setting Fucale is comfortable with, though, having donned his country’s colors at the World Junior Hockey Championships on home turf a few months ago. He knows that while the circumstances might have changed, the highly competitive nature of Memorial Cup contests is quite similar to those involving Team Canada at Christmas time.
“The pressure you feel during an international tournament is different. Right now, these are the top teams in Canada. What’s good this year is that things are tight between the four teams. We’ve all earned the right to be here. Every game is close. It will probably be like that until the end of the tournament,” offered Fucale, who secured a gold medal at the World Juniors back in early January. “Here in Quebec, we really feel that our fans are behind us. They push us, they help us and it gives us a lot of energy. It’s very special, especially in such a historic place like Quebec City. There’s a lot of energy in the city during the tournament and we’re very privileged to be playing here. That’s for sure.”
With a record of one win and one loss, the Remparts could make things easier on themselves if they manage to best the Rimouski Oceanic on Wednesday night. They certainly won’t be lacking in motivation. After all, Rimouski downed Quebec for the President’s Cup just last week, claiming the QMJHL title. The chance to send their rivals packing is something Fucale and the Remparts simply don’t want to pass up. Nevertheless, the talented netminder isn’t the type of player to let his emotions get the best of him. Instead, he’ll focus on the fact that neither squad can afford to lose this game.
“We’re all looking forward to this game. There’s a big rivalry with Rimouski. Regardless of what happened in the President’s Cup Final, though, it’s in the past,” stressed Fucale, referencing the heart-breaking double-overtime loss the Remparts suffered in Game 7 at the hands of the Oceanic. “On Wednesday night, both teams have to win if they want to keep going. There’s no tomorrow, for them and for us. We feel lucky to still have a chance to earn a spot in the semi-final.”
If his road to the Memorial Cup goes on until the very end, Fucale will meet up with another Canadiens hopeful, Michael McCarron, in the decisive contest. Fucale faced off against the Oshawa Generals forward in the preliminary round, giving up a goal to the Michigan native in the second game of the tournament. Used to taking on the 6-foot-6 forward during Canadiens intra-squad games, Fucale admits that his future teammate has improved significantly since last September.
“Since training camp, everyone has improved during the year. It isn’t any different in his case. He’s big and strong. He protects the puck well and he works hard,” explained Fucale, who was selected 11 picks after McCarron in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. “He definitely played a good game against us. He’s the type of guy you’d rather have on your team.”
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
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