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QMJHL final pits high-powered Val d'Or attack against stingy Drakkar defence

It's said that defence wins championships, so it's unlikely that Baie-Comeau Drakkar coach Eric Veilleux is going to change much going into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final.

The Drakkar has the league's best defence and will be up against the team with the best attack in the playoffs so far — the Val d'Or Foreurs.

The best-of-seven series opens Friday night in Baie-Comeau.

"There's nothing to change," Veilleux said Thursday. "Each team has its identity.

"Surely they're going to stick to theirs and we'll stick to ours. We're in the final for a reason, so we'll keep going in the same direction."

The Drakkar identity is about tight, defensive hockey. It has allowed goaltender Philippe Cadorette to lead the playoffs with a 1.72 goals-against average, to go with a .929 save percentage

Baie-Comeau has conceded only 26 goals in 15 post-season games, while the Foreurs have allowed 47 in 17 contests.

But Val d'Or has been red-hot on attack, scoring 71 goals compared to 49 for Baie-Comeau.

Anthony Mantha leads the Foreurs with 18 goals. Coach Mario Durocher's team has five of the top 10 QMJHL playoff scorers, while Baie-Comeau's top scorer, Charles Hudon, is 12th with eight goals and seven assists.

The Foreurs' production has come despite Durocher urging his team before the playoffs to tighten up their defensive play.

"Our defencemen have been contributing on offence, and we have forwards with a lot of speed and skill," said Durocher. "All our lines have taken turns contributing in the playoffs."

Predicting a winner is tough. Baie-Comeau and Val d'Or had nearly identical records in the regular season.

The Drakkar finished first overall but their 47 victories was only one more than the Foreurs, who were third.

Baie-Comeau has post-season experience on its side as it is in the final for a second year in a row after losing in five games to the eventual Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads last season.

But the Foreurs also learned from their 2013 playoffs, said Durocher.

"We were caught out a bit last year against Blainville-Boisbriand," he said. "We had a big, tall team and the Armada demolished us with their skating.

"This year, we wanted keep the size element of our identity, but we wanted to add some depth. We went out and got some speed."

He hopes those factors will help overcome the Drakkar.

Baie-Comeau's aim is to "stay disciplined like we have since the end of the regular season," said Veilleux. "We also have to keep pressure on offensively.

"They have little plays they make that will force us to stay alert, more alert than against other teams. But we're aware of that and it will be up to us to execute well."

Neither team is more rested. Both went to seven games in the semifinals, with Val d'Or knocking off the Mooseheads and Baie-Comeau beating the Armada.

"We had a day off (Wednesday) when we had one small activity, a team meal and that's it," said Veilleux. "We've had lots of time of recharge the batteries. We're ready for Game One."

The Foreurs travelled straight from Halifax to Baie-Comeau in eastern Quebec and held their regular afternoon practice.

Durocher said he will have to make sure his top five players, who make up the first power play unit, are well rested between games.

Right winger Mantha, centre Samuel Henley, left winger Louick Marcotte and defencemen Randy Gazzola and Guillaume Gelinas have had a lot of ice time, he said.

"Those five have given us a lot, but the others give us depth," said Durocher.

After Hudon, Baie-Comeau's best scorer, Valentin Zykov, ranks 21st with four goals and 13 points.

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