By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Sherbrooke Phoenix are back on the ice Wednesday evening to face off against the Val d’Or Foreurs at the Air Creebec Centre in Val-d’Or, after following mandatory quarantine protocols due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization.
The Phoenix last played a regular season game on Oct. 4, where they lost 4-2 to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Sherbrooke dropped its first two games against the Armada, allowing 12 goals against to open the season.
Phoenix head coach Stéphane Julien said his team is ready to get back to work. Sherbrooke was able to get a full slate of practices in last week. Everyone is back 100 per cent, according to Julien.
“We just want to play some solid games, obviously we want to win, but we want to get back on track, play our style, play good defensively and I think stay out of the box,” he said.
The team needs to maintain discipline going forward, if they want to win, Julien explained. They got into penalty trouble against the Armada, which ultimately led to their downfall. However, he added, both games could have gone either way.
He added that living through the pandemic has been difficult for the players. Motivation levels are all over the place, Julien continued, it’s tough to keep players engaged when competitive games are postponed due to outbreaks throughout the league.
With eight players missing time due to contracting the virus, in order to avoid complacency Julien and his staff focused on sharpening individual skills during the past month. They also worked on small details in the offensive and defensive zones.
The Phoenix also kept practice interesting by creating several inter-squad competitions for the players allowed on the ice. This is the reality right now, Julien said, the team needs to find ways to keep players focused on the job at hand. It’s hanging by a thread, though, he concluded.
“It keeps us on our toes all the time, but obviously if we had to spend another two or three weeks without games, it’s going to be tough for the players,” said Julien.
While the Phoenix got the green light to play again, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has decided to postpone indefinitely games located in the province’s red zones. There are six QMJHL franchises affected by this measure.