Tuesday, 29 May 2018

100th Memorial Cup will be best remembered for great hockey

Titan LW Liam Murphy (#61) and Pats G Max Paddock dive at the puck.
    REGINA, Sask. – The biggest uncontrollable variable came through in spades at the 100th edition of the Memorial Cup.
    During the eight games of the tournament that ran from May 18 and wrapped up on Sunday in Regina to determine supremacy in the Canadian Hockey League, the hockey was outstanding. Now two days after the event wrapped up, the biggest memory you take away was how tight the competition was.
    Out of the eight games, five of them were decided by one goal, while two were decided by two goals with the winning club registering an empty-net tally on each of those occasions.
    Sunday’s championship final turned out to be the contest with the biggest margin of victory as the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan blanked the host Regina Pats 3-0, and that contest included an empty-net goal by Titan right-winger Ethan Crossman with 30.3 seconds to play.
Captain Sam Steel brings the puck up ice for the Regina Pats.
    On top of that, all of those games were shown on national television via Sportsnet providing great exposure to the CHL game.
    You would be hard pressed to find a more compelling Memorial Cup. The WHL champion Swift Current Broncos went 0-3 and every loss came via a one-goal margin.
    Despite being tired and beat up due to playing a record 26 games in their run through the WHL playoffs, the Broncos, who finished second overall in the WHL regular season with a 48-17-5-2 record, could have conceivably been on the winning side of any or all of their games.
    Had they not given up two short-handed goal in their tournament opener against the Titan on May 19 surrendering leads of 2-1 and 3-2, the Broncos wouldn’t have been on the short end of a 4-3 overtime setback.
Colby Sissons and the Broncos didn’t get enough breaks at the Memorial Cup.
    A win in that game could have reversed their fortunes for the event overall. If Broncos star right-winger Tyler Steenbergen came out that contest without sustaining a concussion on an awkward, second period hit, that would have made a big difference for Swift Current too.
    The OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs were likely the most consistent club at the Memorial Cup. The Bulldogs downfall came from the fact they weren’t able to score even with having talented player like star centre Robert Thomas.
    In four tournament games, the Bulldogs, who finished third overall in the OHL’s regular season with a 43-18-4-3 record, posted a 2-2 mark at the Memorial Cup. They outshot their opponents 169-112 in those contests, but were outscored by their opponents 10-9.
Robert Thomas and the Bulldogs didn't get enough goals in Regina.
    The Bulldogs only scored more than two goals once in any of their outings when they downed the Titan 3-2 on May 22.
    Hamilton fell 4-2 in the tournament semifinal contest to the Pats last Friday despite having a 46-24 edge in shots on goal. The Pats sealed that win with an empty-net goal from Jake Leschyshyn with 5.2 seconds to play in the third period.
    In the championship final, the Pats, who were seventh overall in the WHL with a 40-25-6-1 regular season record, did have a real shot to win the game against the Titan, who finished second overall in the QMJHL regular season with a 43-15-8-2 mark.
    In the second period of that contest, right-winger Jared Legien and star captain Sam Steel both rang shots off goalposts.
Defenceman Josh Mahura, right, fires a shot on goal for the Pats.
    After 40 minutes, the Pats were down 1-0 and had been outshot 36-11, so had one or both of the goalpost shots by Legien or Steel have gone in, the storyline of that came could have played out differently.
    The Pats came out on fire in the third period of that contest holding a 17-8 edge in shots on goal. Steel had the best chance to tie things up, but he was robbed on a shot from the left slot by the glove hand of Titan netminder Evan Fitzpatrick.
    That set the stage for Titan captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel to set up centre Samuel Asselin for a goal to put the Titan up 2-0 with 6:58 to play in the third. Victory was then sealed with Crossman’s empty netter.
Jake Leschyshyn brings the puck up ice for the Pats.
    Most Memorial Cups have good drama, but the drama and excitement in this year’s event was above and beyond normal.
    In one of about every five Memorial Cups, you often encounter a situation where one team is heads and shoulders about everyone else like in 2010 in Brandon, Man. That Memorial Cup is viewed as one of the best run tournaments, but the dominating storyline was the romp of the OHL champion Windsor Spitfires.
    The Spitfires flattened the host Wheat Kings and the WHL champion Calgary Hitmen by a combined score of 15-5 before needing overtime to outlast the QMJHL champion Moncton Wildcats 4-3. In the championship final, the Spitfires made short work of the Wheat Kings in a 9-1 triumph.
Defenceman Noah Dobson wins a battle along the boards for the Titan.
    At the 2016 Memorial Cup in Red Deer, Alta., the OHL champion London Knights won all three of their round robin games by a score of 20-5. That event ended with an off the charts exciting final, when the Knights rallied back from a 2-1 third period deficit to pull out a 3-2 overtime victory on Matthew Tkachuk’s winner to down the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-2.
    The last three of the eight games at the tournament in Regina were all sellouts at 6,484 tickets sold for each night. All of those contests featured the host Pats.
    Over 6,000 tickets were sold for five out of the eight games in Regina. The lowest total of 5,678 sold for the opener on May 18, when the Pats downed the Bulldogs 3-2.
Samuel Asselin had the Titan’s Memorial Cup insurance goal.
    Fanfest was popular. It seemed like it was hit and miss with large gatherings at the Brandt Celebration Zone even with the outstanding musical acts that were brought in.
    The Pats owners expect to swallow a $2-million loss financially for hosting the Memorial Cup mostly due to providing a $3-million hosting fee to the CHL. They said they never expected to make money on the event.
    Regina Leader-Post star sports columnist Rob Vanstone reported the hosting fee for next year’s Memorial Cup to be hosted in Halifax, N.S., by the Mooseheads is believed to be $1-million less than the fee spent to host the tournament in Regina.
    The host committee for the Memorial Cup in Regina brought in the Eagles to perform during an open ceremonies on May 17, and about 27,000 seats were sold for that event.
    The Pats owners could have scaled things back, but they wanted to put on a memorable event and stuck to their guns. To be honest, this year’s Memorial Cup had a lot of cool things attached to it.
    Away from the rink, the hotels, restaurants and other businesses in Regina saw great spinoffs from the fact the Memorial Cup was held in the Saskatchewan capital.
    While there are always things to learn along the way, the 100th Memorial Cup in Regina overall will go down as a success.
The Titan pose for the tradition team picture with the Memorial Cup.
    The big thing that made it a success was the product on the ice. When you come to the Memorial Cup, you want to see exciting hockey.
    All eight games that were played at the event in Regina delivered exciting hockey in droves. It will likely be a number of years before all the games in another single Memorial Cup tournament can duplicate the great display of hockey that took place in Regina.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.