The OHL Champion Spitfires dropped their first two games of the Memorial Cup tournament (to Drummondville and Rimouski) before beating Western powerhouse Kelowna to force a tiebreaker on Thursday night vs. Rimouski. The Spits were down two goals entering the 3rd period in that game, but Leaf prospect Dale Mitchell scored 3 goals in 3:33 of the third period to propel the Spits into the lead; Windsor won the game 6-4 to earn a berth in the last night’s semi-final vs. Drummondville. In other words, the Spits have taken the hardest possible road to get to the Cup Final. A physically large and very talented Kelowna Rockets club has been waiting since Wednesday night, watching the other 3 teams clobber each other in an effort to get to the Final. If the Spits win the Memorial Cup, they will be the first team to do so by going through the tiebreaker procedure in the history of the tournament.
Here’s Adam Henrique’s winning goal from overtime last night:
First period: Two early chances for Taylor Hall, then a frantic series in the Windsor zone at about the 3 minute mark in which Engelage is down and out and Adam Henrique collapses to the front of his goal (I think) and makes a terrific block on a sure goal from Riendeau. Drummondville is buzzing; I believe they have the generally superior team speed. If they are able to keep that kind of pace up, Windsor will be in trouble. On the other hand, if the Spitfires are able to keep the pressure on Drummondville over the entire ice surface, disrupting their flow, the Spitfires will win.
Things seem to be settling down a wee bit; the teams are racing back and forth a bit. It is encouraging to see the Spitfires breaking up some of the Drummondville rushes, but these wide open opportunities at the feet of Engelage are obviously not on the menu. As an aside, why the hell are we doing an in-game interview with coach Bob Boughner less than seven minutes in to the game? Is he really likely to have gained a lot of insight into the game at that point?
Dale Mitchell is down and hurt at the Drummondville blue line after a collision with Drummondville defenceman Ryan McKiernan, resulting in the game’s first penalty (for kneeing). Nemisz blasts one wide left from the slot. The power play – for a change – is actually maintaining control of the puck in the offensive zone. The PP is over now, Cousineau wasn’t seriously challenged, but he was required to make a couple of quick saves; the penalty has been served. Windsor seems to have begun dictating play once again, but then a loose puck is recovered by Jonathon Brunelle in the Windsor zone and a battle for the puck in the corner leads to a Windsor penalty. Engelage makes a huge save on a wide-open Vachon to keep the game scoreless. Timmins and MacDermid manage some good pressure down ice while shorthanded and force a couple of face offs. The penalty is killed successfully. A minute or two later, Johnathon Brunelle is trying to do a preview of the Indy 500 in the Windsor zone; he’s carrying the puck around and around the perimeter of the zone, occasionally centring the puck dangerously and – just as often – recovering it himself. Thankfully, that little flurry ends harmlessly.
NB: I really started live-blogging a few minutes into the 2nd period; the bits about the first period were notes I was keeping to do a recap,.
Pre-game ceremonies underway: if the PA announcer doesn’t pick up the pace, Windsor’s Memorial Cup participation drought could easily stretch from 21 to 22 years before the puck drops.
Early flurry and big chance on Engelage; the Windsor goaler looks a little lost, and like he’s turning the wrong way. Another couple of early chances in the Windsor end for the QMJHL champs, and Windsor is looking a little bit like a team that hasn’t played a game in over a week – which is what they are.
There was a strange discussion by the Sportsnet announcers during which they observe that Taylor Hall has so many gold medals, he might easily be mistaken for Mister T, “but with a better haircut. Same beard though.” The two announcers laugh and the next word out of the play-by-play guy’s mouth is “Blacker…”, which I incorrectly mistake for a moment as a startlingly inappropriate (and somewhat confusing) continuation of the jest, rather than a reference to the Windsor defenceman.
Jesse Blacker gets crunched on a cheap-shot elbow in the Windsor zone by Sean Couturier. Blacker had gotten rid of the puck long before the hit and wasn’t looking when Couturier tried to force feed him an elbow. I think I could learn to dislike these guys. The Windsor power-play looks mostly disorganized, except for one brief bit of sustained pressure; again, like a team that hasn’t played in a while (though also oddly reminiscent of the way the PP looked during Game 4 of the OHL Final vs. Brampton).