RIMOUSKI, Que. - With their most dangerous offensive threat sidelined with an injury, little-used Maxime Frenette became the unlikely hero for the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
The 18-year-old from Boisbriand, Que. was only in the lineup because star forward Chris DiDomenico was injured, but he backhanded in the game-winner 8:56 into overtime to lift the Voltigeurs to a 3-2 victory over the Windsor Spitfires on Saturday at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
"I think that's the goal of my life," said Frenette
The goal settled a thrilling, tightly contested battle between the champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League in the opening round robin game for both clubs.
The Spitfires are back on the ice to play the 0-1 Rimouski Oceanic on Sunday (Rogers Sportsnet, 4:30 p.m. ET), while Drummondville meets the 1-0 Kelowna Rockets on Monday. Kelowna downed Rimouski 4-1 in the tournament opener on Friday.
Frenette was worried his hockey career may be over this season when he developed chest pains. At first, doctors feared a heart condition, but then it was found to be a virus that would go away on it's own in time.
"I was panicking a bit because they told me it would be six months or more that I couldn't play, but when I got the green light I was so happy," said Frenette, who nonetheless lost a month of playing time.
"Since my virus, I had trouble coming back, so in the playoffs, I was the 13th forward and I wasn't playing much, but after DiDomenico got injured, I got back on the ice and it was great."
Frenette, playing in only his fifth game since the league playoffs began two months ago, started the game as an extra forward without a set line, but late in the game, coach Guy Boucher used him more and it paid off.
Philippe Lefebvre, who forced overtime with a goal at 14:07 of the third frame, put a pass to the point to Patrik Prokop, whose shot went off a skate in front right to Frenette on the right side. His high backhander into an open side left no chance for goalie Andrew Engelage.
"Chris DiDomenico was our best player the last two months, so Frenette would not have played, or maybe once in a while," said Boucher, who lost the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect to a broken thigh in the Quebec league playoffs. "He was playing before the heart problem though.
"He's a great kid. He's skinny, but he has character."
And he also scored an overtime goal in last season's playoff against Gatineau.
Gabriel Dumont had the other goal for Drummondville, while Adam Henrique had both Windsor goals.
Spitfires coach Bob Boughner did not like that his club was hemmed in its zone in the opening minutes of the game and that it was outplayed in stretches throughout the contest.
"Maybe it was butterflies or nerves," said Boughner. "We turned the puck over too many times and didn't get it in deep.
"And we had some guys we need a lot more from. It's disappointing. Some of our guys had below average games."
Taylor Hall, the 17-year-old prodigy some say will be drafted No. 1 overall in 2010, was eye-catching throughout the game, although he didn't get any points. But his linemates Greg Nemisz and Andrei Loktionov were less visible.
Neither team's top stars figured in the scoring, despite the quick pace and high number of chances at both ends. Windsor had a 35-33 edge in shots.
"They definitely outplayed us," said Windsor defenceman Ryan Ellis, projected to be a high pick at the NHL draft in June. "We didn't deserve to win that game. It would have been nice to squeeze by them, but the better team won."
Goaltenders Marco Cousineau and Engelage ruled as the teams remained scoreless until the final second of the second period when Henrique broke the deadlock on a power play.
Eric Wellwood had the first shot, and Cousineau also stopped the rebound from the slot by Scott Timmins, but Henrique was at the edge of the crease to the poke the puck in. Video replays showed 0.2 of a second left in the period.
"Point oh-two left - that's a good bounce for us," said Henrique.
The Voltigeurs tied it one second after a man advantage ended 7:59 into the third on a tic-tac-toe play from point man Dmitry Kulikov to Marc-Olivier Vachon in the left circle to Dumont in front for a shot into an open side. Kulikov is another who is slated to go in the top 10 at the draft.
Henrique put Windsor ahead again as Ben Shutron's point shot went in off him at 11:48, but Lefebvre broke in on a rush and fired a wrist shot that Engelage missed to tie it at 14:07.
The Spitfires got a scare 8:15 into the game when defenceman Jesse Blacker was hammered into the end boards by Sean Couturier, who got two minutes for boarding. A woozy Blacker fell on his first attempt to stand up, but then made it to the bench and returned in the second frame.
In the second, Engelage got a glove on Gabriel Dumont's blast to what looked like an open side, and then stopped QMJHL scoring leader Yannick Riendeau's shot and rebound on a breakaway.
Notes: Drummondville was without Samson Mahbod, who Boucher said had a bad fever. Jeff Marcoux sat out. DiDimenico was in a wheelchair at rinkside. . . Windsor did not dress Ron Soucie, Adam Wallace, Ben Dubois, Jesse Woodcroft, Patrick Moran and goalie Steve Gleeson.