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Cormier looks back on a season of growth

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Cormier, in white, said his game's about hard work and physical play. – Patrice Cormier has enjoyed a busy year.

He won gold with Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championship last December, then helped get the Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) within a game of the 2009 Memorial Cup semifinal last May.

With all that seasoning under his belt, Cormier felt a little more comfortable as he headed into his second rookie camp at AmeriHealth Pavilion last week.

Preparing to take a faceoff.
"You don't know what to expect; you're a little timid, maybe a little gun shy," he said of his camp debut last summer. "I had a good year (that) helped me build confidence. Coming here this year, I know what to expect. My game is playing hard and taking the body, and if I do that, I'll have success."

The Devils' third choice, 54th overall, in 2008, Cormier posted career highs across the board last season with 23 goals, 28 assists and 118 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Oceanic. A center, he resists being categorized as any one type of pivot.

"I don't really want to be compared to anyone," he said. "I just want to be myself and play the way I know I can play, or the way the coaches tell me to play to help the team win."

As the hosts, Rimouski received an automatic berth in the four-team Memorial Cup tournament, which pits the champions of the Canadian Hockey League against one another in a round-robin format. The club finished second in the QMJHL's Eastern Division last season with a record of  44-23-1.

The Oceanic opened the tourney with a 4-1 loss to the Kelowna Rockets (WHL), but stayed alive with a 5-4 victory over the Windsor Spitfires (OHL). They then dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) before ultimately coming up short, 6-4, in the tiebreaker against the Spitfires.

"Our team did very well," Cormier said. "We played a season with ups and downs, but had our best hockey in the Memorial Cup. When the team's playing well, you just want to contribute and help the team go as far as possible. That's what I tried to do. I think it could have gone either way... we had some bad luck against Windsor. That's hockey, I guess."

Cormier, 19, scored a goal in each of Rimouski's final three games and added an assist, earning a spot on the tournament's All-Star team.

"It's good preparation; it's a higher level of hockey," he said. "You face teams that you haven't played: Windsor and Kelowna. It was a new challenge. We were hosting it, so it was pretty special. It went very well for our team and it could've gone either way for us."

Cormier's locker stall at rookie camp was just across the dressing room from fellow Devils prospect Adam Henrique (4th choice, 82nd overall, in 2008), whose Windsor squad went on to beat Kelowna this season for its first-ever Memorial Cup. Defenseman Harry Young (8th/202, 2008), who also attended this year's rookie camp, is the Spitfires' captain.

"There's a good rivalry," Cormier said of his relationship with Henrique and Young – former opponents but potential future teammates with New Jersey. "Even though they're not your friends, they're your friends here. You go out and eat with them, but on the ice when you play against them, it's a whole different ballgame. We all want to win, and it's a battle out there, for sure."

Cormier was joined in camp this year by his older brother, Kevin, whom the Devils acquired in a September 2008 trade that sent Sean Zimmerman to Phoenix. The elder Cormier had two goals and two assists with 94 penalty minutes in 29 games last season with Trenton (ECHL) and made one appearance with Lowell (AHL).

Cormier, a native of Moncton, New Brunswick, said he and Kevin keep each other on their toes in practice.

"If I see that he's not doing a certain thing, I'll tell him, or he'll tell me," he said. "He's not going to miss something on me, so he'll tell me for sure. It's positive."

Cormier will attend Team Canada's summer camp next month in Saskatoon.

"Right now I'm just taking it a day at a time and just focusing on the present, not the future," he said.

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