The 4 teams that will compete for the Memorial Cup have been determined and will get started tomorrow night between the Western Hockey League Champions WHL Kelowna Rockets and the Tournament Host Rimouski Oceanic, while the OHL and QMJHL Champions between the Windsor Spitfires VS. Drummondville Voltigers will be coming up on Saturday afternoon.
For Dallas Stars fans, Jamie Benn will be the main story line as he hopes to end his junior career with WHL and Memorial Cup Titles after having a great playoff run where he lead the entire league in playoff scoring with 33 points (13G 20A). Some other players to watch for Kelowna include Goalie Mark Guggenberger who has been great in the playoffs with an impressive 2.36 GAA and a .907 SV% where teams have had a tough time with a strong defensive game as well. Kelowna chances could improve if some of their other scores like Cody Almond and Mikael Backlund will need to come up to keep up with players like Windsor's Taylor Hall and Drummondville's Yannick Riendeau. One thing that could help out the Rockets is that they were the 1st of the teams to win their league championship and clinch a Memorial Cup Spot, so they should be the most rested and should help them out in tomorrow's tournament openier, in addidition, Kelowna has been in the Memorial Cup a lot in recent years as this is their 4th Memorial Cup tournament this decade as they won the WHL in 2003 and 2005, and being the tournament host in 2004. This team will be dangerous, espically if the defense plays well. For Kelowna, they have recent history on their side as the WHL has won 5 of the last 8 Memorial Cups (Red Deer Rebels in 2001, Kootenay Ice in 2002, Kelowna Rockets in 2004, Vancouver Giants in 2007 and Spokane Cheifs last year). Also the WHL to me prepars teams and their players during the season where they travel the most of all the Major Junior Leagues (Espically in the Eastern Conference). Kelowna has been here many times before and will be playing well in the Cup.
This year's tournament host is the Rimouski Oceanic who after a slow start to the regular season, came on strong with a strong 44-23-1 record for 89 points who finished 2nd in the Quebec East Division behind the Quebec City Ramparts. Then in the playoffs, they beat Chicoutimi in a 4 game sweep, in the Quarterfinals being in against the Atlantic Division Champions Moncton Wildcats in 5 games then in the semifinals. They were elinmated by the Drummondville Voltigers in 4 straight where they eventully won the QMJHL Championship. If Rimouski is going to have a strong showing, their forwards will need as they goaltending has been a bit weak at times with Maxim Gougeon had a medicore 8-5 record with a 3.07 GAA during the playoffs and this is following a regular season where he had 2.94 GAA, he also has a hard time stopping saves even when he is getting help from their skaters. If Rimouski has any chance of having a strong showing at home, they goaltending will need to improve. As for the offense, Philippe Cornet lead the team in scoring with 77 Points (29G 48A) during the regular season but only had 4 goals in the playoffs. Rimouski will surely be the underdog at home espically showing their low seeding during the QMJHL Playoffs.
Many experts picks to win the Championship this year is the Windsor Spitfires. Looking at their stats and how few problems they had. Their's now surprise with the record of the 57-10-1 during the regular season, then losing only 4 games in the entire playoffs. Windsor had 5 players in the top 10 in playoff scoring including the top 2 in the combo of Taylor Hall and Andrei Loktionov which are a very dangerous, you can only hope to contain these 2 when they are on the ice. As for their goaltending, Andrew Engelage could be a game stealer as he proved that they he can steel games like they did against the London Knights where every game went to OT and showed to everyone that they can win all sorts of games. What makes them the experts favorite right now is the strong team defense as they had the fewest goals in the OHL allowed with just 171 goals and were 2nd overall in all of the major Juniors with only the Moncton Wildcats giving up only 149 Goals. To beat these guys, teams will need to attack the defense hard to have a chance to beat the Spitfires. They should be the favorites, because anyone can score in major juniors but the defense at this level just get's tourched and if you have a strong defense, you will have a chance here. Unfortanly for Windsor, the recent history of the OHL isn't good as they have won only twice in the last decade with the last champion comming in 2005 with the London Knights.
Finnally, the Drummondville Voltigers became the final team in the Memorial Cup as they beat the Shawinigan Catarctes in 7 games back on Tuesday night. Voltigers superstar, Yannick Riendeau who just signed with the Boston Bruins who scored an amazing 52 points (29G 23A) which just crushed everyone on the playoff scoring race including Dany Masse who scored an impressive 36 points and is a great player in his own right. Mike Hoffman and Christopher Didomenico are also on the oppenents watch list in this tournament. On Defense guys like Andrew Randazzo will be needed with a +17 with the regular season and is not afriad to take hits. Goaltending wise, Anaheim signee Marco Cousineau has been great since his trade from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar with a solid 2.44 GAA during the playoffs and a .910 in the GAA. If he can support players like Riendeau and Hoffman, Drummondville could be in great shape, espically if they can beat the OHL Windsor Spitfires on Saturday in their tournament openiner. The last QMJHL Team to win the Memorial Cup is the Quebec City Ramparts in 2006.
Here's how the teams got to the Memorial Cup
Kelowna Rockets (Western Hockey League Champions)
Record: 72 GP 47-21-4 98 PTS 267 GF 178 GA 3rd in Western Conference, 2nd in B.C. Division
Top Scores: Colin Long 68GP 91PTS (33G 58A), Jamie Benn 56 GP 82PTS (46G 36A), and Cody Almond 70GP 66PTS (33G 33A)
Top Score: Jamie Benn 19GP 33PTS (13G 20A)
Goaltending: Mark Guggenberger 16-6 2.36 GAA .907 SV%
Beat Kamloops Blazers in 4
Beat Tri-City Americans in 6
Beat Vancouver Giants in 6
Beat Calgary Hitmen in 6
Windsor Spitfires (Ontario Hockey League Champions)
Record: 57-10-1 115 PTS 311 GF 171 GA 1st in Western Conference, 1st in West Division
Top Scores: Taylor Hall 63 GP 90 PTS (38G 52A), Ryan Ellis 57GP 89 PTS (22G 67A), Greg Nemisz 65GP 77PTS (36G 41A)
Beat Owen Sound Attack in 4
Beat Plymouth Whalers in 6
Beat London Knights in 5
Beat Brampton Battalion in 5
Drummondville Voltigers (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Champions)
Record: 68GP 54-10-4 112 PTS 345GF 189GA 1st in Quebec Central Division
Top Score: Yannick Riendeau 64GP 126PTS (58G 68A), Dany Masse 68GP 110 PTS (44G 66A), Mike Hoffman 62 GP 94 PTS (52G 42A)
Top Score: Yannick Riendeau 19GP 52PTS (29G 19A)
Beat Lewiston Maineiacs in 4
Beat Montreal De Junior in 4
Beat Rimouski Oceanic in 4
Beat Shawinigan Catarctes in 7
Rimouski Oceanic (Tournament Host)
Record: 68 GP 44-23-1 89PTS 267 GF 223GA 2nd in Quebec East Division
Top Scores: Philippe Cornet 63 GP 77PTS (29G, 48A) Sebastien Piche 62GP 72PTS (23G 49A)
Top Score: Kevin Veileux 13GP 19PTS (7G 12A)
Beat Chicoutimi Sagueneens in 4
Beat Moncton Wildcats in 5
Lost to Drummondville Voltigers in 4
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