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Game day preview: Blazers vs. Remparts – May 26

The 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia gets underway tonight as the host Kamloops Blazers face the Quebec Remparts at the Sandman Centre.

Kamloops will play its first Memorial Cup game since 1995 while the Remparts make their first appearance since 2015 when they hosted. The two clubs have never met before in the tournament.

“Even though we didn’t win our league we’re really thankful and excited about this opportunity we have in front of us,” said Blazers captain and Dallas Stars prospect Logan Stankoven. “For me, to finish off things on the right foot in my hometown, it would be really special.”

The Blazers were beaten by Seattle, who they will face May 31, in six games in the WHL’s Western Conference Finals.

Despite that, Stankoven’s 30 points led the WHL in postseason scoring while teammate Olen Zellweger (ANA) ranked tied second with 29 points.

Kamloops haven’t played since May 8 and are hoping that rest can be a weapon. They don’t need to look any further than last year when Saint John went 39 days between games before they hoisted the 2022 Memorial Cup as hosts.

“These other teams have gone through a lot going all the way to the end,” said Blazers forward and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fraser Minten. “You never know what some guys are dealing with … it’s been a quick turnaround for them. For us, we’ve been rested and rejuvenated with lots of energy in our legs and excitement about the opportunity.”

Quebec, who swept its way through the first three rounds of the 2023 QMJHL Playoffs, claimed its first Q title as this iteration of the franchise after a Game 6 win over the Halifax Mooseheads on May 21.

Patrick Roy’s men will also look to extend the QMJHL’s recent success at the Memorial Cup; the league has won the last three tournaments and also won three straight from 2011-13.

“Everything has been perfect so far and we’re all really happy to be here and really excited to play our first game tonight,” said Remparts forward and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect James Malatesta.

It has been a memorable postseason for Malatesta who was named QMJHL Playoffs MVP after he scored 14 goals in 18 games that came on the heels of a 37-goal regular season.

“A big thing about our year has been staying consistent,” he said. “Coming in here, we want to play the same game and play to our strengths and if we do that everything will go well for us.”

The Remparts have been road warriors too throughout the playoffs as they have compiled a perfect 9-0-0 record away from home but will once again face the wrath of the home crowd tonight.

“We’ve done pretty good on the road so far in the playoffs,” Malatesta said. “We’ve played in hostile rinks … it’s going to be loud here tonight and fans will be into the game and we will use that as motivation.”

Quebec led the QMJHL in wins (53) and points (109) during the regular season and were ranked no.1 in the Kia CHL Top 10 rankings on five separate occasions.

But now, they begin their quest for a first Memorial Cup title since 2006.

“The big goal was to win the Memorial Cup and we’re excited to start that battle tonight,” said Quebec defenceman and Florida Panthers prospect Evan Nause.

Puck drop tonight is at 9pm ET / 6pm PT and can be seen live on TSN 1/4 and RDS2.

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