The hardest championship to win, in my humble opinion, is almost halfway over and today in Top 5 Tuesday I'll give you 5 things I've noticed through 4 games.
5. Windsor Winless
Who would have thunk it? Not me and probably not anyone if they are being truthful. A team with so much firepower has yet to win a game. Windsor pretty much steamrolled their way to the Memorial Cup but after an overtime loss to Drummondville and losing to an inspired host team from Rimouski, they need to beat Kelowna tonight and get some help to see the weekend. I can't believe it but maybe I shouldn't be to shocked, after all the #1 team in the country didn't even make the Memorial Cup. After winning 12 straight playoff games, Calgary lost to Kelowna in 6 games during the WHL final.
4. Goaltending Gaffes
With the exception of Rimouski's Maxime Gougeon, the goaltending at the 2009 Mastercard Memorial Cup has been well below average. Each of Mark Guggenberger from Kelowna, Marco Coussineau from Drummondville and Andrew Engelage from Windsor have given up soft goals. Engelage has done it at key times like the goal that forced overtime against Drummondville and the eventual game winner vs. Rimouski. Windsor is reminding me of Regina at the 2001 Memorial Cup. Donald Choukalas started for the Pats but was brutal as they fell to 0-2. Chad Davidson took over and led the host team to within an overtime game of reaching the final. Will Windsor pull the chute on Engalage and go with Josh Unice who played in this tournament with Kitchener last year?
3. Kool Kulikov
I'm really starting to like how Dmitry Kulikov plays the game. Ok so he struggled against Kelowna Monday night, but if we judged a player on one game, Jakob Markstrom wouldn't be so highly rated after his meltdown against Canada in the WJC gold medal game this year. Kulikov seems to know exactly when to dash up the ice and does it smoothly. He's a great power play QB and has a pretty decent shot. Drummondville's Mr. Everything on defence played in Russia's top 4 at the WJC as an underager. He's been hanging around the #10 spot for the past few months in the ISS rankings but one scout I spoke to tonight thinks he'll be gone earlier than that.
2. Barrie Outplaying Ellis
I'm not suggesting that NHL scouts will start ranking Kelowna's Tyson Barrie ahead of Windsor's Ryan Ellis, but in the battle of the pint sized blueliners, Barrie is winning. Barrie is listed at 5.10, 190 lbs and has 4 points in 2 games - including a 3 point night against Drummondville Monday - he's also plus 2. Ellis has just one goal, on the power play, and has been on the ice for 3 goals against giving him a -3 rating. I called Barrie a poor man's Ryan Ellis on TPS last Tuesday, he's ranked 77th by ISS in their May report but some scouts might be moving him up their list.
1. Huska = Memorial Cup Championships
With their win Monday night, Kelowna sent head coach Ryan Huska to the Memorial Cup final for a 5th time in his playing/coaching career, looking for his 5th championship. He won 3 as a player with Kamloops and was an assistant coach to Jeff Truitt when Kelowna won it all in 2004 on home ice. Incredibly this is Huska's 7th time at the tournament, the other 2 times they failed to make the final. So you have to think history is on his side as each time he's reached the title game, he's won it.