QMJHL: William Rousseau is the first recipient of the Patrick-Roy trophy

MONTREAL – William Rousseau had just won everything a junior player dreams of winning when he learned he was traded to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last summer. The Abitibi team had seen the 20-year-old goalkeeper lead the Quebec Remparts to great honors and wanted to entrust him with a similar mission.

On paper, the plan seemed flawless. However, its execution quickly suffered setbacks.

For an athlete reaching the highest peaks, returning to sea level can be difficult. The feeling of having nothing left to prove and the temptation to ride on past accomplishments can make him vulnerable to a setback to which he felt immune. This is a bit like the trap Rousseau fell into when he arrived with his new team.

“My first four games, roughly, they were not matches where I was in my bearings,” recognizes Rousseau today, who on Thursday became the very first recipient of the Patrick-Roy trophy given to the goalkeeper of the year in the QMJHL.

“I wanted to do well. I think it’s more the human factor that is involved. But after these four matches, I was met in the office by [l’entraîneur Martin Dagenais]. With Danny [Sabourin, l’entraîneur des gardiens], we talked about it a little too. It gave me a little wake-up call and it brought me back to the fact that nothing is taken for granted, to the necessity of always having to prove oneself. I really kept those words in mind and it allowed me to get started. »

What followed was the closest thing to a flawless run among the goalkeepers on the Cecchini circuit. Rousseau won eight of his next nine starts. He was perfect in the month of December, beginning a streak of eleven consecutive winning starts during which he gave up more than two goals in a game on just three occasions.

The Trois-Rivières native finished his final season at the junior level with a 34-10-1 record and eight shutouts, a QMJHL record. His goals-against average of 2.24 earned him the Jacques-Plante trophy that was awarded to him last season.

His candidacy was preferred to those of Mathis Rousseau of the Halifax Mooseheads and Samuel St-Hilaire of the Sherbrooke Phoenix.

The irony was not lost on anyone: the first player to be awarded the trophy bearing the name of the former goalie of the Granby Bisons, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche spent most of his junior career playing under him.

“It’s quite an honor,” reacted the charismatic athlete. We talked about it a little when the trophy appeared, I saw it on social networks at the start of the year. I said to myself that it would be funny to win it knowing that Patrick, over three years of time, I developed a good relationship with him, I played for him, I won with him. It is truly an honor to be rewarded. »

An undeniable influence

Rousseau joined the Remparts at the age of 17 in a difficult context, that of a season affected by restrictions linked to the pandemic. He describes the rookie he was then as “not as mature a young man” as he is today. From then on, Roy’s influence helped him to refocus and find winning conditions for his development.

“He was good [dans sa façon] to be direct with me. He didn’t tell me like that, but I felt like I needed to give more. »

The young goalkeeper specifies that Roy has always left it to his assistant Pascal Lizotte to look into the technical aspects of the position. His role with his masked men was more of a mentor.

“Every time things weren’t going great, he was able to reconnect with me with little anecdotes, situations where he put himself in my place. He could tell me: “I’ve been in that situation, Will, and I did this, this and this to get out of it.” It allowed me to have this background, this experience. When these situations happened, I knew how to get out of them. »

Rousseau cites as an example a sequence during which he had put up “somewhat questionable” performances before the series over which the Remparts flew, in the spring of 2023.

“There was a match against Victo where even though we ended up winning the match, it didn’t go well. The next day, he brought me into his office and it was one of the rare times he made a video with me. At the same time, he told me stories from Colorado, when he was falling behind in a series and how he was able to reconnect with his confidence. A goalie, you have to be naturally confident to be hot in the moment. These are tips that I will keep to myself. This is stuff I have to take to heart, coming from Patrick. »

The seventh heaven

The future is bright for William Rousseau. During his junior career, he continued his studies and obtained his first license to operate as an airplane pilot. Colleague Stéphane Leroux even had sex with him during a recent visit to Rouyn-Noranda.

But before considering making a living with this atypical career, the grandson of former Canadian player Bobby Rousseau wants to see if hockey can take him to seventh heaven. After receiving an invitation to the Boston Bruins rookie camp last summer, he wishes he had done enough to be offered a contract in the coming weeks.

Otherwise, he seems inclined to take the route of the Canadian university network.

“I want to play pro next year, there’s no doubt. I tried this year to give my agent more juice to be able to negotiate something, to find a place where I would be able to prove myself. A chance, basically, to enter an organization as a fourth or fifth goalie and really make my way there. That’s just what I want, a chance. »

“When I get it, if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, I’m going to go fly planes. But hockey is so engraved in me that I want it to work. It’s my childhood dream kid. My grandfather played in the National League, I come from a hockey family. That’s what I want to do in my life and I’m sure I’m going to push hard to make it work. »

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