KITCHENER, Ont. - The Gatineau Olympiques were the first team eliminated from the 2008 MasterCard Memorial Cup with a 3-1 loss to the Spokane Chiefs on Tuesday.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions (0-3) held a lead for the first time in the tournament in the first period, but didn't have enough gas in their tank to defend it and force a tiebreaker game Thursday.
The Olympiques didn't want to blame a blue-line decimated by injuries for their early exit from the Canadian Hockey League championship. But the mistakes, turnovers and 143 shots allowed on Ryan Mior during the tournament took its toll on Gatineau.
"Eventually it's going to catch up to you and when you play the best, that's when it's going to happen," Mior said.
The Western Hockey League's Chiefs (3-0) had already secured a berth in Sunday's final prior to the game against the Olympiques, so they played a more conservative game than in their first two.
"The point of this tournament is knocking teams out. We wanted to get one out and we did," said Chiefs captain Chris Bruton.
The Chiefs' reward for finishing first in the round robin is four days off before the final.
"It'll be an eternity probably," forward Drayson Bowman said. "We've been looking forward to this all year. To wait four days is going to be tough."
The Belleville Bulls and host Kitchener, both 1-1, conclude the round robin Wednesday (7 p.m. ET).
Gatineau's elimination makes that game a preview of Friday's semifinal. Wednesday's winner will be the home team in the semifinal and have right of last line change.
The two clubs know each other well as the Rangers needed seven games to beat Belleville in the OHL championship series.
The Olympiques led 1-0 after the first period on Alexandre Quesnel's power-play goal at 15:57. Mitch Wahl scored the go-ahead goal in the second period for Spokane and he also assisted on Bowman's fifth goal of the tournament. Levko Koper added an empty-netter goal against the Olympiques.
Chiefs' goalie Dustin Tokarski extended his record to 3-0 in the tournament with 26 saves. Mior made 40 saves in the loss.
The Olympiques came from behind to tie the score three times in their first two games of the tournament, but were unable to repeat that trick this time despite two power-play chances in the third.
They looked like a team out of steam.
"This is probably the most courageous group I've ever coached," Gatineau head coach Benoit Groulx said. "I told them to walk out the door with their heads held up."
Top defenceman Maxime Mallette played just his second game since injuring his shoulder in January.
He was inserted into the lineup after sitting out the previous night's game, which was a 6-3 loss to Belleville. Mallette was a substitute for Hubert Labrie, who hurt his knee Gatineau's opening game, but played in the second.
Jonathan Carrier hasn't played since mid-season shoulder and knee surgery and Julien Machabee (ankle) did not play in the tournament.
Winger Claude Giroux, who had 51 points in 19 QMJHL playoff games, was hampered by an injured wrist in the tournament and mustered just two points.
The first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers played over 90 games this season starting Aug. 27 in Ufa, Russia, with Canada's junior team in the Super Series against the Russians.
He also helped Canada win gold at the world junior tournament.
"For everything that happened to me, world juniors, Super Series, two games with the Flyers, I think it's the best season I ever had," Giroux said. "I'll remember this season forever for sure."
Paul Byron, the leading goalscorer in the QMJHL playoffs with 21, was held to one goal.
Gatineau finished third in the QMJHL during the regular season and wasn't considered a favourite to get to the Memorial Cup.
The Olympiques have been to the Memorial Cup seven times in franchise history and three of them with Groulx.
He is considered one of the most talented coaches in junior hockey, but a Memorial Cup eluded him for a third time after his Olympiques lost in the finals in 2003 and 2004.
"Our goal is to be back at the Memorial Cup as soon as possible and win it," Groulx said. "Our goal is to win the Cup sooner than later."
Notes: After the loss the Olympiques unfurled a bilingual banner thanking the host city and circled the Memorial Auditorium with it. . . . The last QMJHL team to win the Memorial Cup was the Quebec Remparts in 2006.