SHAWINIGAN, Que. -- The Shawinigan Cataractes did not sit around playing cards in the month since they were ousted from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
They practised and practised some more, worked on conditioning and played an exhibition game against their alumni.
As host of the 2012 Mastercard Memorial Cup, the Cataractes still had work to do getting ready for the 10-day tournament that opens Friday at the Bionest Centre. The Cats face the Western Hockey league champion Edmonton Oil Kings in the opening game.
"There was lots of hard work to be done," Veilleux said. "We needed to practice hard -- take the body, 1-on-1 drills, 2-on-2. Do everything a game situation presents."
Shawinigan finished second overall to the defending Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs this season, but were upset in Game 7 of the second round of playoffs by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens on April 17.
That left 31 days without a real game to play.
"A week ago we had a game against some of our old players," said Veilleux. "(Buffalo Sabres captain) Jason Pominville was here and some players from our 2009 team.
"It was not as physical (as a real game), but for the system, we were able to do everything we will do in a game."
The Cataractes, the only team remaining from the original QMJHL when it was founded in 1969, are built around the defence, including the top pair of Brandon Gormley and Morgan Ellis. As a team, they allowed the fewest goals in the league.
But there is speed and skill up front from right winger Kirill Kabanov, centre Michael Chaput and left winger Yannick Veilleux. Winger Anton Zlobin was their regular season leader with 76 points, including 40 goals.
They also have Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael Bournival, who was held to one goal 11 playoff games after putting up 56 points in 44 regular season tilts.
And they will have their home crowd at the 4,125-seat Bionest Centre, the still new-looking rink they moved into three seasons ago.
"We can't wait for the puck to drop," said Veilleux. "We have great fans and we know they'll support us to the maximum.'