Welcome to the third edition of Ringless. In this series we look at the best teams throughout VHL history to never win the cup.
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There are many teams in VHL history that were elite but never won a cup. Sometimes it’s because a different team is just plain better, or a lot of bad luck. The Quebec City Meute of S49 and S50 are one of the clearest examples of teams being great, but another team just being better. The Meute were the biggest victim of the Legion’s threepeat from S48 to S50, despite having a star-studded team. How did the Meute win only one playoff series despite having five hall of famers on their roster?
The S49 Meute were a few seasons in the making. After a solid run during the early S40s, they regressed and missed the playoffs three straight seasons from S46 to S48. In the S48 draft, the selected centre Unassisted second overall, and also added forward Tom Lincoln because of the GM rule. The draft wasn’t much help for the Meute in their rebuild, as they relied on trades in order to secure the big-name players, such as goalie Greg Clegane. They traded a first, a second and a young goaltender for Aleksi Koponen and Greg Clegane, both of which are now hall of famers. They also acquired defenseman Jeff Hamilton from the Bears at the deadline, completing their dangerous quintet of future hall of famers.
Despite finishing low in the standings for three straight seasons, the draft wasn’t very valuable to the Meute. As teams such as the Titans and Bears began to rebuild, the Meute took advantage and acquired three future hall of famers in the process. These five players helped bring the Meute to the top of the league, with an eye-popping 60 wins. They won the Victory Cup and finished first place in one of the most stacked North American Conferences the league has ever seen, with second-placed Toronto having 59 wins and third-placed Calgary having 57 wins. Koponen had 132 points, Lincoln had 110, and Unassisted had 107, forming one of the deadliest lines in the league. Greg Clegane also had a .935 save percentage, and he would go on to win the Scotty Campbell and Aidan Shaw trophies. They headed to the playoffs with a first-round bye, and would eventually meet the Toronto Legion in the Conference Finals.
While Greg Clegane would eventually move on to the Legion, his time with the Meute was nothing short of spectacular.
The Legion were coming off a Continental Cup win in S48, and had an elite team themselves. Zach Parechkin, Max Molholt, and Black Velvet led the team while Hans Wingate held it down in net. All four of those players would go on to become hall of famers, leading to a star-studded clash between the Legion and the Meute in the Conference Finals.
The Meute were the only team left that could stop the Legion, since the European Conference was very down that year. With the pure firepower each team had on offense, as well as the elite goaltending on both sides, it looked like we were in for an instant classic. Game’s one and two were in Quebec, and the Meute needed to set the tone. In-game one, the Meute dominated the first two periods, doubling the Legions shot totals, but it was tied heading to the third. In the third period, the Meute collapsed, and ended up losing 3-1. Game two was a must-win for the Meute, since they couldn’t afford to lose both home games. The Legion scored twice in the first period, but the Meute would tie it at 2 and the game headed to overtime. The Meute, yet again, were dominating the Legion. When the game was over, the Meute had 50 shots compared to the Legions 29. Late in the first overtime, Kol Mikaelson, a rookie that had only 13 points during the regular season, would score to give Toronto the win. The assists on the goal went to bot defenseman. The sim gods hated the Meute, but it only would get worse.
Game three was an absolute battle. The Legion had the lead four different times, but the Meute tied it up every time and the game headed to overtime tied at four. This was an absolute must-win for the Meute, but just ten seconds into overtime, forward Marcel Faux scored and the Legion won game three. The Meute had no life left in them. Game four came, and it looked like the writing was on the wall. However, the Meute showed signs of life and won 5-2. They dominated this game as well, and they should have had a 3-1 lead after this game. The Meute should have won this series, but they barely could win a game. In-game five, the Legion came to play and ended the series with a 2-1 win. The Meute won 60 games in the regular season, including a 27 game winning streak, and only got one postseason win to show for it. It was a rough series for the Meute, and the Legion would go on to win back to back championships. S50 had to be the year.
The Meute suffer defeat on home ice at the hands of the Legion in game five
The Meute returned what was practically the same team as S49, as all five core pieces returned in the hopes of a title run. They didn’t have the same success as they did the year prior, as they finished with only 52 wins this year, but it was still a strong season, and they finished in second place in the North American Conference, only behind the defending champion Toronto Legion. With a first-round matchup against the heavy underdog Wranglers, it looked like we were headed to a rematch in the Conference Finals.
The series against the Wranglers went as expected. Despite three close games, the Meute absolutely dominated, having 40 or more shots on goal every game. The Meute would sweep the overmatched Wranglers to book a date with the Legion yet again. The Legion were looking for the first-ever three-peat, and the European Conference wasn’t very strong yet again. It was up to the Meute to stop the Legions run.
For the second year in a row, the Meute and Legion were going to meet in the Conference Finals. The Meute had revenge in mind, while the Legion wanted to keep their winning ways. In-game one, the Legion opened up the scoring late in the first period as Black Velvet put one home. In the second, the Meute tied it up, as Tom Lincoln scored to tie it at one. The game remained tied as the horn sounded, and we were headed for overtime. The Legion had the momentum, badly outplaying the Meute in the third period, and used it to their advantage. The Legion scored five minutes into overtime and they would end up winning game one. Game two would be a huge game for both teams. No goals were scored in the first, but Unassisted scored in the second to give the Meute a 1-0 lead heading into the third period. Just a minute into the third, Legion forward Edwin Reencarnacion tied the game, before Marcel Faux, the overtime hero from last season's series, gave the Legion the lead with only a few minutes to go. The Legion would win game two, and take a 2-0 series lead heading to Quebec City.
Game three was a must-win for the Meute, and if they lost, it would almost certainly put the nail in the coffin for their season yet again. They had a 2-0 lead heading to the third before Edwin Reencarnacion of the Legion cut the lead in half late in the period. The Meute would hold on and win game three and make the series 2-1. There was very strong goaltender play in all three games thus far, but game four was different. Tom Lincoln scored within the first minute of the game before Max Molholt tied it for the Legion heading to the second. Lincoln scored again in the second, but Molholt responded again to tie it at two. John Sleeman of the Meute scored back to back goals to give the Meute a 4-2 lead, but a Toronto power-play goal cut that lead in half heading to the third period. Max Molholt completed his hat trick in the third period to tie the game, and it headed to overtime tied four to four. It took sixteen minutes of overtime play to decide a winner in this crucial game four, but Marcel Faux scored the overtime winner for the Legion, tearing the hearts out of all the Quebec players and fans for the second straight year. The Legion would have a 3-1 series lead heading back to Toronto.
Marcel Faux scores the overtime winner in game four
Despite being down 3-1, all hope wasn’t lost for the Meute. It felt different than last season, even though they were in the same situation. Zach Parechkin scored for Toronto in the second period of game five to give the Legion a 1-0 lead heading into the third, but Tom Lincoln tied it up early in the third before a bot forward for Quebec come through in the clutch with the go-ahead goal with just two minutes to play. Greg Cleganes 30 saves on 31 shots was plenty to force a game six back in Quebec City, and the momentum swung back into the Meutes favour. Game six started strong for the Meute, as Jeff Hamilton scored to give them the lead in the first period. The Legion would tie it in the second, and it would remain scoreless through the rest of the game. We were headed to another overtime.
Both goalies had been fantastic all series long. There was only one game that a team scored more than two goals during the series. Overtime began, and the nervous energy of the crowd in Quebec was obvious. This might be their final chance at a cup. A few minutes passed by before none other than Marcel Faux scored the series-winning overtime goal to send the Legion back to the finals. Faux scored three goals all series, and they all were in the biggest moments. The Meute had fallen short, yet again.
The next season, they would end up trading everybody. They fell short of their goal, and now they needed to restart. Every dynasty has victims, certain teams that had the talent to win a cup but couldn’t beat the dynasty. The Meute had one of the greatest rosters in the league’s history but fell victim to perhaps the single greatest team in league history. The Meute should have won a ring, but the Legion stopped them in their tracks. The S49 and S50 Quebec City Meute are one of the best teams to never win a cup.