GMHL National Championship Preview: Temiscaming TitansMarch 29th, 2023 at 11:46PM March 30th, 2023 4:48AM
The final feature in our National Championship Preview series is finally here and we are going to be looking at the host Temiscaming Titans who will have the opportunity to defend the Russell Cup as the reigning champions this weekend against the North Division Champion Bradford Rattlers, the South Division Champion North York Renegades and the West Division Champion High Prairie Red Wings.
From a record perspective the Titans had their most challenging season in franchise history this year finishing with their lowest win total and having more losses than wins on the season with a 20-20-2 record (it should be noted that the Titans also faced significant loss of games due to injury and school by many key players) , but all of that goes out the window for the 2 time Russell Cup winning franchise in a National championship hosted on their home ice. The Titans won 3 of their last 5 as they headed into the playoffs and then swept the West Nipissing Lynx in the first round. They were eventually swept by the Rattlers in the North Division Semi-Finals but not before they forced the deciding game 3 into overtime showing that they can play at the same level of the Rattlers on any given night.
In the regular season the Titans were led offensively by 2nd year standout and QMJHL draft pic Nathan Hardy who scored 63 points on the year, not far behind him was Nico Gregoire who in addition to his 50 points on the year was also named runner-up for the Top Defensive Forward award in the North division, Fan favorite Christopher Fan Fan was also near the point per game mark and Philippe Falardeau had 64 points on the season with 12 of those coming with the titans when he was acquired form Tottenham. One of the biggest pieces of news for the Titans is the return of Jacob Tessier-Gagnon to the squad for the National championship, Tessier-Gagnon was ranked #3 in the North division among forwards for both October and November in the player power rankings.
It’s not often that a defenseman is among the names mentioned for the League MVP award but in Emile Lavaelee the Titans have someone who did just that, finishing as runner-up for not only the Top Defenseman award but also the North Division MVP providing elite play on the back end all season and finishing third on his team in scoring with 49 points including 17 goals. Losing young All-Star defenseman Ivan Kozlenko to his national team will hurt but this team has many options including Massimo Doyle and Jericho Mongrain who will both look to win a second consecutive Russell Cup.
The Titans have in net the most successful active goalie in terms of playoff history. Coming into the National Championship Eloi Bouchard has a sparkling playoff record of 15-3 with 15 of those wins coming in a row before he lost to the Rattlers in the North Division semi-finals. Even though he wasn’t named as one of the runner-ups for the GMHL North Divisions top goaltender award it was evident to those around the league that the Russell Cup winning goalie does everything he can to win the game for his team. Bouchard was also the starter for the Titans squad that won the North Division in 2019-2020 and came within 1 win of another Russell Cup finals appearance before the season was suspended.
The Titans have a chance to do 2 special things this weekend, win a second consecutive Russell Cup and become the first to do so at the National championship (in front of their home crowd no less). Will we see more magic at Le Centre for the Titans? Coach Sebastien Lacroix hopes so after winning last years championship to go along with his QJHL championship in Princeville in 2018-2019. The Titans will start their defense on the 30th against the High Prairie Red Wings, before playing the Rattlers on the 31st and ending off their round robin schedule with the South Division North York Renegades on the 1st of April. The home crowd of Temiscaming will certainly be cheering them on as they look to advance to the championship game on Sunday April 2nd.