The Windsor Spitfires haev captured their first Memorial Cup win their franchise's history on the strength of an early first period onslaught that powered them to a 4-1 win over Kelowna.
No team had ever lost their first two games at the tournament and gone on to win the Memorial Cup but that is what Windsor managed to do on Sunday. The Rockets had a chance to eliminate the Spitfires from the tournament on Tuesday but couldn't get it done and it came back to haunt them. Windsor defeated Rimouski in the tie breaker and then Drummondville in the semi-final before taking it to the WHL champs in the title game.
The first period was about as bad as it gets if you're on the side of the Kelowna Rockets. First, Mikael Backlund's lackadaisical breakout was broken up by fellow Flames prospect Greg Nemisz who stripped the Swede and fed Adam Henrique who wired a shot past Mark Guggenberger.
A minute and a half later, Dale Mitchell's routine shot from the sideboards somehow eluded Guggenberger up high on the short side and suddenly Windsor was up 2-0.
Kelowna coach Ryan Huska immediately called a time out to try and calm down his troops and slow the momentum of the Spitfires. It didn't work.
With Kyle St. Denis in the box for a knee on Mark Cundari, Windsor would strike again. Rob Kwiet converted on an opportunity with Andrei Loktionov and Henrique picking up assists on the goal.
Mark Guggenberger was given the hook after allowing 3 goals on 3 shots and in came 17-year-old Adam Brown who hadn't started a game since March 14th and that was the his only action in that month. Brown (pictured above) was immediately tested as Mitchell barreled in alone on a breakaway but the youngster made two saves to get his first feel of the game. Brown saw 6 shots in the period and stopped them all.
Kelown'a bad luck wasn't limited to their poor goaltending; three key players went down to injury and although all of them returned to play they were clearly a little worse for wear. Jamie Benn went down hard after missing Taylor Hall with what would have been a huge hit. Hall was able to duck under Benn who collided into the boards hurting his tailbone.
Tyler Myers bloked a shot on his the inside of his knee and skated off awkwardly and missed his next shift. Captain Colin Long was taken out by an aggressive Lane MacDermid right at the end of the 1st period and had to be helped off the ice.
Windsor outshot Kelowna 9-5 in the first period although scoring chances may actually have been in favor of the Rockets.
However, the Rockets burst out of the gate to start the second period and scored just 8 second in as Long made good on the power play. Kelowna had a bunch of momentum at that point and had several more scoring chances but couldn't beat Andrew Engelage.
The momentum wouldn't last forever though and when Ryan Ellis hammered a point blast off the post and behind Brown, the Spitfires appeared to assume complete control.
There was one scary moment as Jamie Benn slashed Mark Cundari in the mouth and received a double-minor for the high stick. Windsor failed to capitalize on the 4-minute man advantage but they did carry the 4-1 lead into the final period.
There was no scoring in the final frame as Windsor sunk into defensive mode and a deflated looking Rockets squad couldn't muster any offence.
The final shots in the game were 28-22 in favor of the new CHL champs. Adam Henrique, a New jersey Devils 3rd round pick in 2008, and Jamie Benn of the Rockets led the tournament in scoring with 9 points each. Taylor Hall of the Spitfires was chosen as the tournament MVP.
The image of seeing the team posing for the traditional photo with Mickey Renaud's #18 jersey draped around the trophy... fans of any team would have to admit that it was a great moment.
It was the first time since 2002 that the host league was not represented in the Memorial Cup final. It was also the first time since 2003 that the host team was not playing in the final game either.
Next year the Brandon Wheat Kings will host the tournament.