Looking ahead to the Memorial Cup this weekend and one thing is clear; the team that gets the best performance out of their netminder will probably win.
We see it year after year in the Stanley Cup playoffs and it's no different at the minor league, NCAA or junior level. A hot goaltender is more often the not the deciding factor in whether a team wins or loses. In an event like the Memorial Cup where you have 4 teams where there is very little seperating them, at least on paper, it could all come down to which masked man makes the best stand.
It doesn't always work out that way though. Last year Jonathon Bernier and Matt Keetley were the top netminders at the Memorial Cup and yet Vancouver came away with the win. However, Tyson Sexsmith wasn't exactly a shrinking violet in net. Perhaps further to the point, the Plymouth Whalers were completely sunk because their goalie, Michal Neuvirth, really shit the bed and the club paid the price.
With that in mind, here's a look at the four goalies in the 2008 Memorial Cup.
Ryan Mior - Gatineau Olympiques
The un-drafted 20-year-old just set a new record this year with 270 QMJHL games played in a career surpassing Jacques Cloutier's 30-year-old record. Mior also set the new record for career shutouts (15) and a new team record for goose eggs in one season (6) which was previously held by Jose Theodore.
Mior got his start with the PEI Rocket but was dealt to Gatineau days before Christmas in 2006. The native of St. John's Newfoundland was chosen by the Rocket 7th overall in 2003. At 6'0 and 181 lbs he's an average sized goaltender.
Mike Murphy – Belleville Bulls
Like Mior, Murphy is also un-drafted but in this case the goaltender is just finishing the first year as the bona fide starter for his team. You wouldn’t know it though with the way he’s played for the Bulls. This season Murphy was named OHL Goaltender of the Year twice and capped that off by winning the league Goaltender of the Year award as well. Recently on The Pipeline Show’s 3rd Annual Memorial Cup Coach’s Show, Belleville bench boss George Burnett talked about the importance Murphy has had for the success of his club this season. He ended the OHL campaign with the best GAA (2.24) and save percentage (.929).
“The sign of a top goaltender in any league is that he gives you an opportunity to win each and every night and we didn't respond to the effort that he put forth [in Game 7]", said Burnett after his club lost the OHL final to Kitchener.
Murphy was hurt early in Game 1 of the series and did not play in Game 2. With the Bulls down 3-0 to the Rangers, Murphy's play was a big reason Belleville was able to force a 7th game.
"Murph's been outstanding," Burnett added, "I think he's a young man that is motivated by the lack of attention. I expect he's going to be a huge factor for our team over the next two weeks."
Josh Unice – Kitchener Rangers
The rookie has been a fantastic addition to the Rangers this season and has had top 5 stats all year long. Some of that will be attributed to the quality of the team in front of him but there is no denying that the Chicago Blackhawks prospect is a contributor to Kitchener’s strength and not someone along for the ride.
Unice, a 5'11 and 175 lb goaltender, played for the US national Development team last season. The Ohio native was a third round pick by Chicago which looks like a steal of a deal with the way he's played. He was ranked as the 15th best North American goalie heading into the draft but was the 6th masked man snapped up once the actual draft took place.
Unice ended the OHL season with the 3rd best GAA (2.45) and share of the top spot for shutouts (4).
Dustin Tokarski - Spokane Chiefs
Unbelievable. That's the word to describe how Spokane's netminder has played in the post season. Tokarski's 1.38 GAA and .944 SV% is outstanding and a major reason why the Chiefs have reached the Memorial Cup. The 2008 eligible netminder hails from Watson, Sk and is currently listed by Central Scouting as 7th in North America... but that's going to change, guaranteed.
Tokarski is 5'11 and 185 lbs so pretty much par for the course compared to the other 3 netminders at the Memorial Cup. In the WHL's Western Conference series against Tri-City the clubs went the full 7 games but 5 of them needed extra time. Tokarski allowed a total of 10 goals against in that series and just 5 more in the 4-game sweep over Lethbridge to claim the WHL crown.
Another strong performance at the Memorial Cup could lift Tokarski into top 5 contention for goalies in the class of 2008.
This past Tuesday we were pleased to present or 3rd Annual Memorial Cup Coach's Show. If you missed it live you can click the archive... right here.