Hey guys, Curtis here with the last installment in my series of updates on the 2012 Mastercard Memorial Cup from Shawinigan, Quebec. If you need to catch up, the previous posts can be found here and here.
Last time we left off with the host Shawinigan Cataractes upsetting the WHL Champion Edmonton Oil Kings in the 3rd place tie breaker, sending them off to the Semi-Finals against the QMJHL Champions, the St. John Sea Dogs. Coming in, the Sea Dogs were the heavy favourites as defending Memorial Cup champions, and having gone 16-1 in their QMJHL playoff run. The Cataractes were expected to challenge for the Championship as well, but had a disappointing second round exit, leaving them with a month off to prepare for the Memorial Cup, which some people thought they didn't even deserve to host.
Hmm, that's awfully expository, let's see what happened.
Shawinigan Cataractes vs St. John Sea Dogs, May 25th 2012
The Cataractes were on their third game in three days, and after two physical matchups, including a penalty-filled affair on the 23rd against the Sea Dogs themselves in which their QMJHL rivals dominated the scoreboard, they were not expected to have a fighting shot in this one. Minnesota Wild 1st round pick (28th, 2011) Zack Phillips opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game with his third of the tournament, and it didn't look good for the Cataractes, but only a few minutes later, Shawinigan struck back with two goals less than 3 minutes apart from 2012 World Juniors teammates Brandon Gormley (Phoenix, 13th, 2011) and Captain Michael Bournival (Colorado, 71st, 2010- Now a Canadiens prospect) to put them up 2-1. The Sea Dogs were able to score again to tie it up 2-2 to end the first. The second seemed to be back to the chippiness of their first game, but Shawinigan broke through mid-way through the period with two quick goals to put them back on top. The period ended 4-3 with a goal by Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida, 3rd, 2011, but you know that by now). The Sea Dogs tied it up once again halfway through the third, and it looked like it could be anyone's game, but there was no quit in the Cataractes as they went ahead once again a few minutes later and never looked back. Shawinigan would add an empty netter and one more before the game was over to take this one and earn a berth in the 2012 Mastercard Memorial Cup Final.
The Cataractes really were the surprise of the tournament, and were at this point the only team that had successfully defeated the rest of the teams in the tournament, including the team they would face in the final, the London Knights.
2012 MASTERCARD MEMORIAL CUP FINAL:
Shawinigan Cataractes vs London Knights, May 27th 2012
I'm just going to throw this one out there to start it off: The Cataractes were playing their fourth game in five days. That's rough for any team, not to mention one that's been off for a month, with all of those games coming against CHL league champions. No one would expect them to have any sort of jump in their step- remember, these are just kids. No one would have been surprised to see them come out flat and get dominated by the Knights- the only team they were able to beat in the round robin. And it sort of started out that way. Ryan Rupert (one of a pair of twins along with brother/teammate Matt, both draft eligible this year) scored 5:42 into the game, but, the Cats proved a lot of things this tournament, and one was that early goals against don't necessarily mean a thing to them. This game was different than the rest of this tournament, and especially in the sense that there were only three penalties taken and no powerplay goals scored. Another draft eligible player, Russian Anton Zlobin, scored for the Cataractes to start the third and tie up the game. This one stayed like that until the end of regulation, adding another facet to this one- the first Memorial Cup final to go to Overtime in over a decade. The guys were just gassed, especially the Cataractes' defense, but the teams managed to keep the intensity up on the biggest stage in junior hockey. It took a while to get there, but near the end of the first overtime period, Zlobin managed to get another one past CHL Goaltender of the Year (who has now gone undrafted twice) Michael Houser with a great shot off a great pass from Shawinigan native and Captain Michael Bournival.
The host Cataractes completed their miracle run through the tiebreaker (Only the second team to win after needing the tiebreaker, after the Windsor Spitfires in the first of back-to-back championship runs in 2009) to win their first Memorial Cup in their 43 year history.
Michael Chaput (Columbus) was named MVP.
Another incredible Memorial Cup tournament in the books. It'll be back next year in Saskatoon where the host Blades will have a chance to end their CHL-leading Championship drought. Annnd I'm sure I'll be doing these posts then, too.