Windsor Spitfires win Memorial Cup for 1st time
The Windsor Spitfires exploded with an early barrage against the Kelowna Rockets in Sunday's Memorial Cup final, capturing the junior hockey championship with a 4-1 victory.
Adam Henrique, Dale Mitchell and Rob Kwiet scored on Windsor's first three shots before the game was seven minutes old, sending Kelowna goalie Mark Guggenberger to the bench.
Colin Long scored for the Rockets eight seconds into the second period in the game at Rimouski, Que., but Ryan Ellis of the Spitfires restored the three-goal cushion later in the frame.
Andrew Engelage finished with 17 saves for the winners.
Windsor won the Memorial Cup for the first time in the 34 years since the team joined the Ontario Hockey League. The Spitfires of 1988 lost in the final.
Taylor Hall, expected to go near the top of the 2010 NHL draft, was named most valuable player of the tournament with two goals and six assists in six games.
Windsor won 73 of 88 regular-season and playoff games but appeared to be slumping at the wrong time early in the tournament.
The Spitfires became the first team to win the Memorial Cup after losing the first two games. They were also the first to win after having to play the extra qualifying game, which requires playing three games in four days.
"We knew if anyone could do it, it was us," said team captain Harry Young. "We have such a close group here.
"It was the first time this year we really faced adversity and we pulled through."
The team and the city have endured difficulties over the last several months.
Many of the players were on the team during the 2007-08 season when captain Mickey Renaud died suddenly at the age of 19 due to a rare heart condition. The brother of Warren Rychel, part of the ownership group, died in a house fire in March.
The team's strong play this season heartened a city hard hit by job cuts in the auto industry.
"With the atmosphere at home and all the people supporting us, it means everything for us to do this for them," said Young.
"We knew [Renaud] was watching over us all tournament," Young added.
The Rockets had an outstanding season, knocking off the favoured Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League final. Kelowna was in the tournament for the fourth time in seven seasons, winning the event in 2004.
"It's difficult when you give up goals early on," said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. "I thought we did a good job of making sure we didn't quit or lose that emotional control.
"We stuck with it and tried to work our way back in. In the first period, a lot of the play was in Windsor's zone, but it's just the way some games go. They got a lead and then you don't have to push as much as the team that's trailing. It's tough to come back against good hockey clubs."
Sunday's first period was a disaster for Kelowna, which hadn't played since wrapping up a berth in the final on Tuesday.
Guggenberger, who was outstanding in the regular season and playoffs, was disconsolate on the bench after being pulled.
The first period also saw Kelowna's Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers limp off with injuries, although they would return.
Henrique, who scored the overtime winner in the semifinal victory over Drummondville, opened the scoring after taking a pass from Greg Nemisz.
It would be the first of three goals in a 3:49 span for the Ontario Hockey League champions.
Mitchell outfought Tysen Dowzak along the right boards and fired a high shot that found Guggenberger down early on the play.
Rob Kwiet's soft wrister between the pads completed the outburst and had Huska putting Adam Brown into the Kelowna net.
"We got a little fortunate early," said Windsor coach Bob Boughner. "We had a couple of goals go in that maybe weren't great goals.
"Kelowna kept fighting back, but we played that smothering style and put a blanket on them."
Brown was thrown into the deep end, forced to make a breakaway save on Mitchell early on in his outing. Later, the Rockets netminder had to adjust when Nemisz redirected a point shot.
In between, Engelage kept Kelowna off the scoreboard when he stopped Cody Almond's shot.
Windsor's Lane MacDermid was sent off for kneeing Long with six seconds left in the first period and the Kelowna centre struck back eight seconds into the second on the rebound of Jamie Benn's backhander.
Brown kept up the strong work, denying Andrei Loktionov from the slot, but Ellis would beat the Rockets goalie with a slapshot over the glove.
Brown stopped 16 of 17 shots in relief.
Benn and Henrique topped the tournament with nine points each. Benn and Mitchell each had five goals, more than any other skaters.
Marco Cousineau of the Drummondville Voltigeurs was named top goalie, stopping 133 of 146 shots for a top save percentage of .911. Teammate Yannick Riendeau was named most sportsmanlike player.
Forward Patrice Cormier of host Rimouski was joined on the tournament all-star team by Cousineau, Myers, Ellis, Hall and Benn.
OHL teams have now won 13 times since 1971, with 18 champions coming from the WHL and seven from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Next year's Memorial Cup will be held in Brandon, Man.
With files from The Canadian Press