Spokane Chiefs win Memorial Cup
Cup exchange team's only misstep
Goaltender Dustin Tokarski and the rest of the Spokane Chiefs stifled the big guns of the Kitchener Rangers for the second time at the 2008 Memorial Cup on Sunday, winning the junior championship in front of a disappointed crowd.
Judd Blackwater, Drayson Bowman, Trevor Glass and Jared Cowen scored for Spokane in the 4-1 victory at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. Tokarski was the main story, making 53 saves.
The 18-year-old Watson, Sask., native, who figures to have raised his stock ahead of the NHL entry draft in June, stopped 89 of 91 shots against Kitchener in the tournament.
"That was the longest third period of my life," he said. "When we got that fourth goal, it was an amazing feeling."
Kitchener's top line of Justin Azevedo, Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling combined for 15 points in a 9-0 semifinal rout over the Belleville Bulls. In two games against Tokarski, they could only muster a Halischuk goal in the earlier round-robin loss.
Team captain Chris Bruton contributed two assists and was part of a botched exchange of the trophy after the game to Glass, causing the cup portion to break off.
The good news is that it's a replica trophy. The one that has been handed out to the junior hockey champion since 1919 is in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
"It just kind of crumbled in my hands and I'm sure I'll be all over YouTube and I'll get e-mails for the rest of my life over that, but I don't care because we won the Cup and that's all that matters," said Bruton.
"It's just as beautiful and maybe more beautiful that we have that top off and we can drink from the cup a little easier."
Tokarski was named tournament most valuable player.
Brandon Mashinter put the Rangers up 1-0 in Sunday's final, but the Chiefs roared back with three goals in a nine-minute span. From there, Tokarski continually shut the door on several great Kitchener scoring chances until Cowan clinched things with an empty-net goal.
Spokane won the franchise's second Memorial Cup, the first having come in 1991. The Washington state team and the Portland Winter Hawks, who've also won twice, are the only teams based in the United States to win the event.
Including the Western Hockey League playoffs, the Chiefs finished their dream season with nine consecutive wins.
"It's the first time I've ever been able to walk off the ice and say I won my last game," Spokane head coach Bill Peters said. "It's an overwhelming feeling, but [I feel] a lot of pride, especially for our city, our organization and 24 guys."
Kitchener opened the scoring for the fifth consecutive time at the event. Mike Mascioli took control of the puck after a faceoff in the Spokane zone and drove to the left side of the net, dropping the puck to Mashinter for the goal at the 5:01 mark.
Rangers goaltender Josh Unice stopped Blackwater near the left post to hold the lead, but the shooter would get revenge on the power play with four minutes left in the first.
Blackwater, who had great scoring chances in Spokane's first three games at the Memorial Cup but couldn't connect, was the beneficiary of a pass from Ondrej Roman, who drove down the left side to set up the goal.
Tokarski gave more than a hint of what was to come, making 18 saves in the first period.
Spokane took command with a pair of goals 61 seconds apart early in the second. Bowman, who also got the winner in the round robin against the Rangers, gathered the puck after a Kitchener turnover, quickly pivoted and fired into the net past Unice, who may have been screened.
The Chiefs kept pressure on and were rewarded with a power play. Bruton won the draw cleanly to Glass, who fired a wristshot over Unice's glove at 5:12, prompting Kitchener coach Pete DeBoer to call a timeout.
The Rangers fired on Tokarski from all angles. Halischuk hit the goalie's chest late in the second, while Scott Timmins was stymied from the slot early in the third. Spaling skated in alone on Tokarski midway through the final period but lost control of the puck in a deke attempt.
"They're a great team defensively," Halischuk said. "They block a lot of shots. We were around the net tonight and fired everything at them and unfortunately didn't come up on the right side tonight."
Spokane forward David Rutherford nearly sealed the outcome with about nine minutes left with a shot that squeezed through Unice's pads and off the post, but Rangers defender Ben Shutron cleared the puck from the crease.
Tokarski heard the welcome sound of the crossbar late in the third, with CHL player of the year Azevedo driving hard to the net, knocking the Spokane goalie down but not scoring.
Kitchener managed two furious goalmouth scrambles but no goals with Unice pulled for an extra attacker, and Spokane brought the puck up-ice for Cowan's empty netter.
Kitchener was looking for a third Memorial Cup in franchise history.
Unice finished with 22 saves. The goalie was thrust into the No. 1 role just last month after teammate and Canadian world junior starter Steve Mason had season-ending knee surgery.
In addition to being named MVP, Tokarski was also named top goaltender of the tournament and Halischuk most sportsmanlike. Azevedo, who led the OHL in scoring in the season and playoffs, was honoured for also leading the tournament with four goals and seven assists in five games.
Tokarski, Azevedo, Bowman, Shutron and Spokane's Mitch Wahl and Justin Falk were named to the all-star team.
The 2009 Memorial Cup will be held in Rimouski, Que.
With files from the Canadian Press