BRANDON, Man. -- Jacob De Serres was still searching for the words two days after it happened.
The blowout loss the Brandon Wheat Kings endured on the opening night of the MasterCard Memorial Cup was crushing, he said, conceding, "it was a feeling I've never felt before -- it was extremely hard."
The goaltender had an easier time explaining his team's redemption Sunday, having provided the backbone in a 4-0 shutout of the Moncton Wildcats that helped blunt the impact of a tournament-opening loss. Brandon allowed nine goals against Windsor on Friday, and the host team needed a win to regain the momentum inside its own arena.
"There's nothing better for a goalie then to bounce back, to battle back and brush everything off," De Serres said. "We had a little adversity, and I think it showed a lot of resilience, from myself and my team."
The 20-year-old, who had been called upon in relief on Friday, made 31 saves for the win on Sunday. Forward Toni Rajala scored a pair of goals for the Wheat Kings, who won a game at the Canadian junior championship tournament for the first time in 14 years.
Moncton lost for the second time in as many days, and faces elimination Tuesday against the same Windsor team that blasted Brandon.
"We're playing good teams, stronger teams than we're seeing in our league," Wildcats coach Danny Flynn said. "We're doing our very best. The teams we're playing are very, very good."
Brandon and Moncton opened the tournament with the kind of losses that fuel the eternal debate: Is it more painful to get blown out -- defeat by a thousand cuts -- or is it worse to be undone by a single, critical bad bounce?
The Wheat Kings nearly helped the Spitfires set a Memorial Cup record with their 9-3 loss, leaving Windsor two goals shy of the all-time single-game mark (11).
Moncton lost the following afternoon in a manner equally as shocking. The Wildcats let a 3-0 lead dissolve in the third period of their game against the Calgary Hitmen, falling 5-4 after a funny hop along the boards led to the decisive goal with 78 seconds left.
Wildcats goaltender Nicola Riopel was still grappling with the turn of events more than a half-hour after the game. He had watched the replay, but could not figure out how a basic shot around the end boards bounced out of the corner and into his crease, costing his team the game.
The 21-year-old still seemed distracted in the first period against Brandon on Sunday. He was beaten 10 minutes into the game, and seemed to be swimming in rough water as the Wheat Kings continued to press, suggesting the memory of the unlucky goal was still making an impact.
"Oh, for sure, it did," Moncton captain Scott Brannon said after the game. "Seeing how close we were in that first game, especially having a lead like that, and then having them storm back, we just didn't stick to our plan."
Brandon took the 1-0 lead at the end of a two-on-one, as forward Aaron Lewadniuk slid a pass across the face of goal to Rajala, who flipped a backhand on net. It was a run-of-the-mill shot that the goaltender might have stopped with a quicker move across the crease.
And the struggle did not end there for Riopel. He was looking skyward during a break in the play a few moments later, just in time to catch the replay of Calgary's strange goal as it played one more time on the big screens above centre ice.
The end boards toyed with him again in the second period. Brandon took a 2-0 lead after a shot bounced off the boards behind Riopel, freezing him as Rajala scored his second of the game on the rebound.
Brayden Schenn scored on the power-play four minutes later, forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout. Brent Raedeke gave the host team a 4-0 lead two minutes into the third period, sending the hometown fans out into the late afternoon with a smile on their face.
"Obviously, the big Calgary come-from-behind win against them yesterday would deflate their tires a little bit," Schenn said. "Not to take anything away from them, but I thought our team played real well today."