Sunday, 27 May 2018

Titan top them all, capture 100th Memorial Cup

The Titan celebrate winning the Memorial Cup.
    REGINA, Sask. – The team from the Canadian Hockey League’s smallest market has laid claim to major junior hockey’s biggest prize.
    On Sunday at the Brandt Centre, the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan downed the Regina Pats 3-0 to win the Memorial Cup, which was being contested for the 100th time. The win was a first for the Titan in franchise history, which dates back to 1969.
    The Titan have been playing out of Bathurst, New Brunswick, since 1998. According to the 2016 Canadian census, Bathurst has a population of just over 15,500, which makes it the smallest market in the CHL.
    “It is indescribable,” said Titan overage defenceman Adam Holwell. “Winning the President Cup (QMJHL champions) was unbelievable.
Defenceman Adam Holwell departs the CHL as a Memorial Cup winner.
    “(It is) the same feeling this time except we get to celebrate it without having to worry about a game the next week. It is going to be fun.”
    The Titan finished the Memorial Cup tournament with a 3-1 record, while the Pats, who were the host squad for the event, finished at 3-2. Acadie-Bathurst had been off since Tuesday after wrapping up the round robin portion of the tournament with a 3-2 setback to the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs. 
    The Titan, who downed the Pats 8-6 in a round robin clash on May 20, finished first in the round robin portion of the tournament.
    Regina entered Sunday’s contest fresh off a 4-2 tournament semifinal win on Friday against the Bulldogs.
    “We played a really good 60 minute,” said Titan head coach Mario Pouliot. “We did the good thing during the four days off, and our players were fresh mentally and physically too.
Adam Holwell (#13) celebrates scoring the winning goal for the Titan.
    “Tonight at the start of the game especially in the first two periods, we had a lot of energy, and we were playing our identity. We were fast. We counterattacked them.
    “We were using our speed. (I am) just proud too of all the players. It is a great accomplishment right now.”
    Acadie-Bathurst pinned the Pats inside their own zone for much of the first two periods.
    Titan overage defenceman Adam Holwell wired home a shot from on top of the right faceoff dot in the Pats zone to give his side a 1-0 lead with 3:50 to play in the first period.
    He never thought his tally would be the game winner.
    “That is going to sound cool, when I tell my kids that I shot it bar down,” said Holwell. “It is unbelievable.”
Netminder Max Paddock makes one of his 41 saves for the Pats.
    The Titan increased their pressure in the second period and held a 16-0 edge in shots on goal for the frame nine minutes in. Pats 17-year-old rookie netminder Max Paddock had a spectacular outing to keep his club in the game.
    Early in the second, Paddock stoned Titan right-winger Ethan Crossman on a dangerous rush and later robbed the Sackville, N.B., product with a huge glove save.
    Despite being outshot 24-6 in the second, the Pats had chances to get on the board as right-winger Jared Legien and star captain Sam Steel both hit the post on respective shots.
    Those efforts engaged the sellout crowd of 6,484, who started up chants of “go Pats go.”
    After being outshot 36-11 over the first 40 minutes, the Pats hit high gear in the third searching for the equalizer forcing Titan star netminder Evan Fitzpatrick to come up with a number of big stops.
Star captain Sam Steel had some big scoring chances for the Pats.
    Fitzpatrick stoned Pats left-winger Robbie Holmes in close and later turned away Czech import defenceman Libor Hajek on a slot shot.
    Steel had a golden opportunity to score on a rebound chance but was denied when Fitzpatrick flashed the leather for a big glove save.
    “I just try to really just track the puck,” said Fitzpatrick. “No matter if I am getting one shot or 10 shots or whatever, I just try to do my job knowing that my team is going to be there to help me out.”
    The Titan weren’t able to expand their edge until there was 6:58 remaining in the third period, when centre Samuel Asselin converted to beauty set-up pass from captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel to give Acadie-Bathurst a 2-0 edge.
    Crossman sealed with the win with an empty-net goal with 30.3 seconds to play in the third.
Evan Fitzpatrick makes 28 saves to get the shutout for the Titan.
    Fitzpatrick made 28 saves to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Titan. Paddock turned away 41-of-43 shots to take the setback in goal for the Pats.
    “I am speechless right now,” said Fitzpatrick. “It is icing on the cake here. We won the (QMJHL) title, and now we are national champions.
    “It is amazing. We have a great support system here. We have a lot of parents and a lot of fans and a great support system back in Bathurst.”
    The Titan finished second overall in the QMJHL’s regular season standings with a 43-15-8-2 record and went 16-4 in the playoffs.
     The Titan took the QMJHL Championship series in six games with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
    The Pats, who have won the Memorial Cup three times, finished seventh overall in the WHL with a 40-25-6-1 regular season record playing out of the league’s ultra-competitive East Division.
The Titan react to winning the Memorial Cup.
    They were eliminated in the first round of the WHL playoffs in a tough seven game series against the Swift Current Broncos. 
    The Broncos won the WHL title and went 0-3 in the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup and didn’t qualify for the event’s playoff round.
    WHL teams have won only one of the last 10 Memorial Cup tournaments.
    Steel has a signed three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks, and it is unlikely the Sherwood Park, Alta., product will return to the Pats for an overage season.
    He played a key part in helping the Pats reach last year’s WHL Championship series, which they dropped in six games to the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Pats were outstanding that season finishing first overall in the WHL at 52-12-7-1.
    While he was dejected after Sunday’s loss, Steel said he would reflect on his four seasons in Regina fondly.
Titan Defenceman Olivier Galipeau takes a lap with the Memorial Cup.
    “It’s been unbelievable since the day I was drafted,” said Steel. “It’s just been great to be a part of this city, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
    “They’ve given me everything throughout my junior career and just really proud to be a Pat.”
    As for the Titan, Sunday’s game will be something their players will always remember.
    Fitzpatrick, who had a 2.96 goals against average and a .906 save percentage for the Titan in the Memorial Cup, loved soaking in the celebrations on ice comparing it to when the Titan clinched the QMJHL title series at home on May 13.
    “I went through this once in Bathurst, and now this a bigger stage and a bigger title, it is amazing,” said Fitzpatrick. “To have my family come out and everyone else who is around, it is special.”

Steel named tournament MVP

Sam Steel, left, receives the Stafford Smythe Trophy from David Branch.
    Regina Pats star captain Sam Steel was named the MVP of the Memorial Cup tournament.
    He topped the tournament in scoring with two goals and 11 assists appearing in all of Regina’s five games to be awarded the Stafford Smythe Trophy as tournament MVP, and he was named to the event’s all-star team at forward. Due to the fact he has a signed NHL entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks, Steel will likely not be back in Regina next season for his overage campaign.
    During the regular season, Steel appeared in 54 games with the Pats piling up 33 goals, 50 assists and plus-27 rating in the plus-minus department. He added one goal and 10 assists in the Pats seven games in the WHL playoffs.
    He helped Canada win gold at the last world juniors, which wrapped up in early January in Buffalo, N.Y.
    In his WHL career, Steel has appeared in 258 regular season games piling up 123 goals, 215 assists and a plus-78 rating. He ranked sixth all-time on the Pats list for career regular season assists and his 338 regular season points rates 10th all-time.
    The Pats had two other representatives on the tournament all-star team including netminder Max Paddock and defenceman Josh Mahura.
    The Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan placed three players on the tournament all-star team including defenceman Noah Dobson and forwards Jeffrey Truchon-Viel and Samuel Asselin.

Heponiemi wins CHL’s sportsmanship award

Broncos star left-winger Aleksi Heponiemi won a major CHL award.
    Swift Current Broncos star left-winger Aleksi Heponiemi won the CHL’s sportsman of the year award on Saturday.
    The product of Tampere, Finland, appeared in 57 regular season games for the Broncos piling up 28 goals, 90 assists and a plus-42 rating in the plus-minus department. He only had 28 minutes in penalties for the campaign. Heponiemi’s 90 assists were a Broncos record for one regular season.
    He played for Finland in the last world juniors that wrapped up in January in Buffalo, N.Y.
    Heponiemi was selected in the second round and 40th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
All of the CHL’s major awards were handed out on Saturday in Regina.
    Players from the WHL claimed two other major awards. Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips was named the goaltender of the year and centre Jayden Halbgewachs of the Moose Jaw Warriors took the top scorer award piling up 70 goals and 59 assists playing in all of the Warriors 72 regular season games.
    QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada had two award winners with Alexandre Alain taking the scholastic player of the year award and Alex Barre-Boulet claiming the player of the year award.
    As for the other award winners, Andrei Svechnikov of the OHL’s Barrie Colts won the top prospect award, Garrett McFadden of the OHL’s Guelph Storm took the humanitarian of the year award, Alexis Lafreniere of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic captured the rookie of the year award and Nicolas Hague of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads took the defenceman of the year award.
    Drew Bannister, who is the head coach of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, was named the winner of the Brian Kilrea coach of the year award.
    On Sunday, the CHL announced the 2004-05 London Knights were appointed the CHL’s team of the century following a fan vote in celebration of the 100th Memorial Cup. The Knights went 59-7-0-2 in the regular season, won the OHL title and the Memorial Cup.
    During the 2004-05 regular season, the Knights set a CHL record posting a 31 game undefeated streak.

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