RIMOUSKI, Quebec – Red-hot Jamie Benn and the Kelowna Rockets are on their way to the Memorial Cup finals.
The Dallas Stars prospect had four goals and an assist as the Rockets scored three times in the third period to defeat the Drummondville Voltigeurs 6-4 on Monday night. The Rockets (2-0) clinched first place in the four-team tournament and an automatic berth in Sunday’s final. They end round-robin play tonight against the 0-2 Windsor Spitfires.
“It’s funny how it works that we’re already there, but we can’t let down,” Rockets coach Ryan Huska said. “We have to enjoy this and then get ready to play a team that is desperate.”
Benn had a goal and two assists in Kelowna’s tournament-opening 4-1 win over the Rimouski Oceanic on Friday and stepped up the pace even more against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league champion Voltigeurs.
The Victoria, British Columbia, native scored twice at even strength, once short-handed and once on the power play, and also set up the first of two goals by Cody Almond.
With the Drummondville net empty in the dying seconds, Benn fired the puck down the ice only to hit the goalpost. Had it gone in, five goals would have tied a single-game record set in 1975 by Bruce Boudreau, then with the Toronto Marlboros and now head coach of the Washington Capitals.
“I didn’t really know about it until after the game, but that’s not really on my mind,” Benn said. “We just want to win.
“Getting on a roll helps, but it’s not only me. My teammates help me out a lot.”
Tyler Myers, the Rockets’ towering defenseman, said Benn “had an amazing game – it’s too bad to see that puck pop out at the end.”
The Voltigeurs (1-1) will play the Oceanic (1-1) on Wednesday night with second place on the line.
Drummondville took a 4-3 lead at 7:23 of the third period when Marc-Olivier Vachon banked in his second of the game on the power play, but a hooking call against Philippe Lefebvre opened the door for Benn to slam in Mikael Backlund’s pass to tie it at 9:26.
Benn skated in and sneaked a shot between a weak Marco Cousineau’s pad for the game-winner at 11:41, while Almond got an insurance goal with 1:31 left to play.
“Both teams play a similar style – taking space away in the neutral zone,” Volts coach Guy Boucher said. “We both live off turnovers and that’s how they won – they were a bit better at it.
“The fourth goal we got was big for us, but the penalty we took hurt us. We had momentum going into the last 10 minutes and we gave it up.”
Kelowna will play in its fourth final, but it will be a fifth for Huska. He played in three with the Kamloops Blazers and was assistant coach when Kelowna won in 2004. He is 4-0 in Memorial Cup finals.
Yannick Riendeau had a four-point night for Drummondville, scoring once and assisting on both of Vachon’s goals and another from defenseman Marc-Antoine Desnoyers.
The Rockets got an early break in front of the Colisee crowd of 4,225 when Dmitry Kulikov lost the puck off his stick at center ice on a rush. Colin Long poked it to Benn, who went in on a short-handed breakaway and stuffed the puck under Cousineau’s pad 4:02 into the game.