Closing out the 2021 Montreal Canadiens rookie camp, the top Habs prospects played an exhibition game against the Quebec University All-Stars (QUAS)—a team made up of players from McGill, Concordia, and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). Despite a strong showing from the all-stars, eight of whom play for the McGill Redbirds, the game finished off with a 5-3 win for the Habs rookies.
The QUAS squad struck first late in the first period, with a goal by Alexandre Katerinakis, a Concordia Stingers forward. The momentum quickly swung toward the Habs and remained that way until well into the second period, as the rookies managed four consecutive goals—one on Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) goaltender Tristan Cole-Cazenave and the three others on McGill first-year Alexis Shank. The current Redbirds captain, Samuel Tremblay, broke the team’s streak off a backhand pass from fifth-year forward Keanu Yamamoto, burying the puck left as goaltender Joe Vrbetic went right.
“I got a beautiful pass from Yamamoto and I went on a breakaway and put it in,” Tremblay wrote in a message to The McGill Tribune. “[It] felt awesome to be a difference maker in that game and be a step closer to win it, but we ended up coming short.”
The QUAS stepped it up in the third period, with Concordia Stinger Tyler Hylland cutting the deficit to 4-3. Unfortunately, there just was not enough time on the clock to recover; Shank was pulled and Habs rookie Kaiden Guhle sealed the deal with an empty-netter.
The exhibition game took place on Sept. 21 at the Bell Sports Complex—the Canadiens’ practice arena—but was closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. The match was not streamed but the game stats were updated live, to be viewed by McGill students, die-hard Habs fans, and those intrigued by a matchup between hockey’s most promising athletes.
Eight of the McGill Redbirds players were selected for the QUAS, including Scott Walford, second-year defenceman and 2017 Montreal Canadiens third-round draft pick. For Walford, getting the chance to compete with such talented players made the experience worthwhile.
“It is always great getting the chance to challenge yourself against great players. I was happy to get that opportunity to not only challenge myself, but also have the opportunity to represent McGill,” Walford said in an interview with the Tribune. “I think the whole experience was special and what made it so special was being able to share it with my teammates.”
Among the others representing the Redbirds were Will Warm, Caiden Daley, Eric Uba, and Jacob Golden. The players will confront their QUAS teammates this season as rivals when McGill plays Concordia on Oct. 22, and UQTR on Oct. 29.
Walford is looking forward to returning back to the rink for the season after COVID-19 cancellations.
“I am really looking forward to just being able to play again,” Walford said. “After a year and a half off, you forget all the little things about everyday life at the rink, which is what makes playing on a team so enjoyable. It will be fun getting to play hockey again with my teammates and to compete for a championship.”
The Redbirds hockey season officially kicks off Oct. 13 with the home opener against the Queens Golden Gaels at McConnell Arena.
On the other side of the ice, the Montreal Canadiens have already started their NHL pre-season exhibition games with a 4-1 loss, then a 5-2 win against their archrivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
First-year goaltender Alexis Shank saved 29 out of 32 shots against over 40 minutes of play.
“I thought the game went well for us, especially for me personally. The first period was pretty chaotic, but we got better as the game went on. The second period we were all over them and in the third I thought they were pretty tired.” —Captain Samuel Tremblay on his team’s performance against the Habs rookies.
MOMENT OF THE GAME
Samuel Tremblay’s second period snipe snuck past Canadiens rookie goaltender, Joe Vrebtic, raising the score to 4-2 and attempting to spur on a comeback.