MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Memorial Cup begins on Friday at the Hershey Centre, with the host Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors joined by the Kootenay Ice, Saint John Sea Dogs and the Owen Sound Attack vying for national junior hockey supremacy.
Here’s a closer look at the four teams:
Western Hockey League champions
Memorial Cup appearances: 2 (2000, 2002).
Memorial Cups: 1 (2002).
2010-11 regular season: 46-21-5, 97 points, fourth in Eastern Conference.
2011 playoffs: Defeated Moose Jaw 4-2; Saskatoon 4-0; Medicine Hat 4-0; and Portland 4-1 in WHL final.
Coach: Kris Knoblauch, first year
Drafted players: D Brayden McNabb (Buffalo, third round, 2009); C Cody Eakin (Washington, third round, 2009); C Max Reinhart (Calgary, third round, 2010); D Joey Leach (Calgary, third round, 2010); LW Drew Czerwonka (Edmonton, sixth round, 2010).
Draft-eligible players: D Johnathan Neibrandt (170th on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters); D Jagger Dirk (188th).
In-season acquisitions: The Ice sent five players — forwards Christian Magnus, Ryan Bloom, Jarett Zentner and Colby Cave, and goaltender Steven Myland — and three draft picks to Swift Current to acquire Eakin in January.
The skinny: Eakin, Reinhart and Matt Fraser — an undrafted free agent who has signed with Dallas — combined for 43 goals (11 of them game-winners) and 38 assists in 19 playoff games. McNabb, the Ice captain, led the WHL playoffs with 24 assists and a plus/minus of plus-23. But goaltender Nathan Lieuwen has been one of the biggest stories for Kootenay. The undrafted 19-year-old led the post-season with a 2.24 goals-against average, three shutouts and four overtime wins. While Kootenay lost just three games in four rounds, it had some defensive lapses in the final against Portland and needed overtime to win two of the games.
They could win if: Fraser and Reinhart keep scoring at key times. The pair combined for eight opening goals and nine power-play goals in the WHL playoffs. Throw in McNabb on the blue-line and the Ice could have the best power play in the tournament.
From the lip: “It has been a remarkable season and I’ve been very proud of what our team has accomplished. We have a lot to feel good about … but it would feel a lot better with one more trophy.” — Knoblauch
— Matthew Scianitti, National Post
Owen Sound Attack
Ontario Hockey League champions
Memorial Cup appearances: 1 (1986, as Guelph Platers).
Memorial Cups: 1 (1986).
2010-11 regular season: 46-17-5, 97 points, first in Western Conference.
2011 playoffs: Defeated London 4-2; Plymouth 4-0; Windsor 4-1; and Mississauga 4-3 in OHL final.
Coach: Mark Reeds, fourth season.
Drafted players: C Joey Hishon (Colorado, first round, 2010); D Jesse Blacker (Toronto, second round, 2009); D Geoffrey Schemitsch (Tampa Bay, fourth round, 2010); LW Garrett Wilson (Florida, fourth round, 2009); G Scott Stajcer (N.Y. Rangers, fifth round, 2009); G Michael Zador (Tampa Bay, fifth round, 2009.
Draft-eligible players: G Jordan Binnington (third on Central Scouting’s list of North American goaltenders); LW Andrew Fritsch (84th on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters); D Keevin Cutting (87th); RW Robby Mignardi (not listed).
In-season acquisitions: D Jay Gilbert, from Plymouth, for D Curtis Crombeen and two draft picks.
The skinny: Owen Sound is the only team in the tournament that did not place a player on Canada’s world junior team earlier this year, and it could be considered the Cinderella story of the bunch despite its OHL title win. The small-market Attack are led by the OHL’s coach of the year (Reeds), and have the OHL’s two most productive playoff performers in Mignardi (15 goals, nine assists) and Hishon (five goals, 19 assists). The Attack are a resilient bunch, winning the OHL title despite having trailed 2-0 in the series.
They could win if: They are able to establish consistency in goal. The Attack copied the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, rotating through all three goaltenders on the roster (Binnington, Stajcer and Zador). It worked for Owen Sound, but as Philadelphia showed, it cannot work forever.
From the lip: “A small-market team, but we have amazing support from our community . . . people will know Owen Sound this week” — Mignardi, celebrating an OHL title win on the ice with the rest of the Attack last weekend.
— Sean-Fitz-Gerald, National Post
Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Hosts, OHL finalists
Memorial Cup appearances: 5 (1934, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1961 as Toronto St. Michael’s Majors).
Memorial Cups: 4 (1934, 1945, 1947, 1961).
2010-11 regular season: 53-13-2, 108 points, first in Eastern Conference
2011 playoffs: Defeated Belleville 4-0; Sudbury 4-0; Niagara 4-1; lost 4-3 to Owen Sound in OHL final.
Coach: Dave Cameron, fourth season.
Drafted players: LW Devante Smith-Pelly (Anaheim, second round, 2010); C Casey Cizikas (New York Islanders, fourth round, 2009); RW Justin Shugg (Carolina, fourth round, 2010); RW Gregg Sutch (Buffalo, fifth round, 2010); LW Maxim Kitsyn (Los Angeles, sixth round, 2010).
Draft-eligible players: D Stuart Percy (53rd on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters); C Joseph Cramarossa (63rd); D Dylan DeMelo (121st).
In-season acquisitions: LW Chris DeSousa, from London for two draft picks; D Michael D’Orazio, from London for three draft picks; G Mickael Audette, from Sault Ste. Marie for future considerations; LW Maxim Kitsyn, from Russian junior team.
The skinny: Cameron is chasing the final jewel in what could have been his triple crown of a season, having already lost in the OHL and world junior title games, along with his captain, Cizikas. Mississauga is not a flashy offensive team, earning its success with hard work in all three zones and a commitment to defence.
They could win if: Kitsyn recovers from the apparent (or assumed) stage fright suffered in Game 7 of the OHL final, when he finished minus-one, and without a point in his team’s crushing home defeat. The 19-year-old Russian has 19 points in 20 playoff games, and he has the ability to use his size and skill to dominate in the offensive zone.
From the lip: “We have to absorb this. You have to absorb it, and then you have to let it go and get ready. But we’re in an absorption state right now, and it will take a while” — Cameron, after losing the OHL final in a Game 7 overtime to Owen Sound.
— Sean Fitz-Gerald, National Post
Saint John Sea Dogs
Quebec league champions
Memorial Cup appearances: None.
Memorial Cups: None.
2010-11 regular season: 58-7-3, 110, points, first in Maritimes Division, first overall.
2011 playoffs: Defeated Cape Breton 4-0; Victoriaville 4-1; Lewiston 4-0; and Gatineau 4-2 in QMJHL final.
Coach: Gerard Gallant, second year.
Drafted players: G Jacob De Serres (Philadelphia, third round, 2008); D Simon Despres (Pittsburgh, first round, 2009); D Eric Gelinas (New Jersey, second round, 2009); F Steven Anthony (Vancouver, seventh round, 2009); F Stanislav Galiev (Washington, third round, 2010); G Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault (Columbus, fourth round, 2010); F Stephen MacAulay (St. Louis, sixth round, 2010).
Draft-eligible players: F Jonathan Huberdeau (third on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters), D Nathan Beaulieu (fifth), F Zack Phillips (15th), F Tomas Jurco (20th), F Scott Oke (44th), F Ryan Tesink (47th), D Gabriel Bourret (92nd), F Aidan Kelly (94th), F Jason Cameron (124th).
In-season acquisitions: Gelinas, acquired from Chicoutimi; D Jason Seed, from Gatineau; and F Alexandre Beauregard, from Rouyn-Noranda.
The skinny: With four potential first-round draft picks, Saint John’s strengths are youth and depth of skill. Huberdeau, who finished third in league scoring with 105 points, is the offensive leader, while Phillips (95 points), Jurco (56 points) and Beaulieu (45 points) are no slouches. The team, which lost to Moncton in the Quebec championship a year ago, was beaten just three times during this year’s playoffs.
They could win if: The youngsters continue to play beyond their years. Much will be expected from Huberdeau, who had 16 goals and 30 points in 19 games and became the fourth 17-year-old to win the playoff MVP award (Sidney Crosby, Dale Hawerchuk and Guy Lafleur are the others).
From the lip: “The fact that we had gone through and lost in the league final last year left an awfully bitter taste in our players’ mouths.” — General manager and associate coach Mike Kelly
Michael Traikos, National Post
© Copyright (c) National Post