Leaving it all on the ice – The Nation speaks with Adam Cheezo in the dressing room

Share Button

The current great hockey hope from Eeyou Istchee, 17-year-old Adam Cheezo of Eastmain, recently rejoined the Val-d’Or Foreurs after suffering a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury midway through his rookie season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The Nation had the chance to see Cheezo play on March 1 at the Centre Air Creebec in Val-d’Or when the Foreurs took on their bitter rivals the Huskies of Rouyn-Noranda.

Cheezo didn’t see a many minutes in the penalty-ridden game, but when he did play he was calm and collected on the ice. He was strong on his skates and his best scoring chances were when he was in tight near the net. A quick skater, Cheezo strides around the rink effortlessly and shows great positional awareness. With his level of composure he should see an increased role with the team as he develops into an older, more mature hockey player.

Val-d’Or stormed out of the gate and dominated most of the first period, going up 1-0 on the first power play opportunity of the game when Anthony Beauregard tipped in a Nicolas Aubé-Kubel slap shot. Only 1:30 later Jan Mandat made it 2-0 for the Foreurs, smashing home a beautiful one timer from François Beauchemin.

After killing off a 5-on-3 power play, Val-d’Or’s Anthony Beauregard scored his second of the game on a floating wrist shot from the point. In the second period, Mathieu Nadeau chipped the puck to Julien Gauthier and Gauthier ripped a wrister into the top left corner to make it 4-0.

An interference penalty followed by a slash and a broken stick gave Val-d’Or a 5-on-3 advantage. The first of the penalized players was racing back onto the ice when the Foreurs strung together several cross-ice passes that led to a one-timer slam dunk Shawn Ouellette-St-Amant to give Val-d’Or a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 lead.

Val d'Or Foreurs face-off

Then Rouyn-Noranda’s Jean-Christophe Beaudin got things started for the Huskies on the power play to make it 5-1. The Huskies then took advantage of the open ice on an ensuing 4-on-4 and Francis Perron scored from in close to draw the visitors within three. An Alexis Pepin tripping penalty gave the Huskies yet another power play where Beaudin notched his second and all of sudden it was a two-goal game.

Things got worse for the Foreurs in the third as the Huskies needed only 17 seconds to pull within one goal thanks to a Timo Meier one timer on yet another penalty kill. Rouyn really poured it on in the third and managed to tie it up when a failed clearing attempt gave Peter Abbandonato the opportunity to break in, stickhandle past a couple defenders, send Montpetit the wrong way with a head fake and slide the puck into the net.

Val d'Or Foreurs bench

The Foreurs’ Aubé-Kubel had a golden opportunity to take back the lead with 1:30 remaining but his shot from the slot rang off the post. A late penalty to David Henley meant that Val-d’Or went into the 4-on-4 overtime down a man and just 43 seconds into the five minutes of extra time Meier of the Huskies took a pass on the right hash marks and one timed it into the top right corner for his game-winning second goal. Foreurs players and fans looked on in disbelief as Rouyn-Noranda’s had scored six goals unanswered, four on the power play.

While it was a scrappy and entertaining affair, the night ended in a tough loss for the home team who trailed Rouyn-Noranda by only a few points for first place in the overall standings at the time.

Post game with Adam and Charlotte Cheezo

The mood in the Foreurs dressing room was one of quiet frustration and anger following the narrow defeat to the team’s enemies from the neighbouring town. After being directed behind a set of curtains on the far side of room, the Nation asked Cheezo what he felt cost his team the victory.

“We had some bad penalties during the game and the other team had some pretty lucky bounces,” he said. “[For the rest of the season] we’ll have to just play as a team and see how it goes from there.”

For many young Crees, Cheezo is a role model and a source of inspiration. Since the age of 13 he’s been away from home pursuing his dream of playing hockey at a competitive level.

Adam and Charlotte Cheezo

Charlotte and Adam Cheezo post game

“He’s going too far now,” laughed his mother Charlotte, who used to go and see every single one of Adam’s games until he was drafted by the Foreurs. “I can’t follow him all the way to Montreal or anything like that.” Charlotte drove in from Eastmain to see her son play that night and was heading back to her home community right after speaking with the Nation.

“I just want him to have fun and be the Adam I know,” she said addressing her hopes for Adam and his hockey career. “I hope a lot of kids back home follow in his footsteps.”

Equally calm and composed in person as he is on the ice, Cheezo says he’s more concerned about having fun playing hockey than he is with the pressure and expectations people may place on his shoulders as a Cree athlete achieving success outside of Eeyou Istchee.

“I just play hockey and I love the sport,” Cheezo said. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices – leaving home, leaving your friends behind, getting up in the morning, training, going hard every day. It’s tough but I love it.”

Room to grow

With one goal and one assist over 26 games with the Foreurs, Cheezo isn’t the team’s highest scorer but he has plenty of time to grow. QMJHL players can compete until the age of 21 in the hopes of garnering attention from scouts at either the semi-pro or professional level.

Watching him play it was clear that Cheezo is comfortable and relaxed on the ice and has a good understanding of the game. His injury took longer than expected to heal, but gave him some time back in Eastmain. Now that he’s fully recovered Cheezo says he’s working hard to be the best player he can be.

Adam Cheezo on the Foreurs bench

“It’s going great experiencing the junior league and it’s pretty fun,” he said. “I had to go home for a bit and slowly recover then come back but I’ve been working hard off the ice and on the ice trying to do my best [to get back into shape].”

Since the difficult home loss to Rouyn-Noranda, Val-d’Or rebounded with away wins against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and the Chicoutimi Saguenéens before falling to Rouyn once again, also on the road. The last game of the season before playoffs is scheduled for March 18 in Gatineau.

Share Button

Comments are closed.