Don’t call it a comeback, the Windsor Spitfires have been here for years.
The Spitfires reeled off four-straight wins to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and dump the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday afternoon and move on to the Ontario Hockey League championship.
They’ll be meeting the Barrie Colts for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the chance to repeat as the Memorial Cup champions.
There is a blend of confidence and desperation surrounding the Spitfires, as they have one of the most loaded rosters in junior hockey, but most of their key personnel like Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler are going to graduate to the National Hockey League.
Windsor was also supposed to easily dispose of Kitchener but struggled mightily against the surprising Rangers. This combination of hope and fear will make them a determined squad when they meet Barrie on Friday.
The Western Hockey League also followed the script, with the top-seeded Tri-City Americans besting the Vancouver Giants in six games and the Calgary Hitmen topping the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games.
It’s worth noting that Wheat Kings fans shouldn’t despair – as Brandon is hosting the Canadian Hockey League’s top tournament they’ll still get a shot at the Memorial Cup.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the only CHL division that hasn’t sorted out its final, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Victoriaville Tigres still engaged in their semifinal series.
Whoever wins that team will go on to face the Moncton Wildcats for the QMJHL’s President’s Cup.
Moncton should be fresh after dealing with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in just five games.
Longtime readers will know that this is something of a disappointment to me. I had a great deal of faith in Drummondville and their goaltender Jake Allen, picking them to advance to the Memorial Cup.
Aside from that hiccup, everything else is playing out correctly in my early predictions. I’m pleased to say that the remaining teams really are the cream of the CHL crop. When action picks up again on Friday it should make for some exciting hockey.
As all Canadian Hockey League fans know, last weekend was the end of the regular season with the final playoff berths being decided as late as Sunday.
There are tight races in all three leagues, but I have my favourites to join the Wheat Kings as they host this year’s Memorial Cup in Brandon, Manitoba.
For starters, I really like the chances of the Drummondville Voltigeurs to win the President’s Cup and represent the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. They’ve won 16 straight behind the incredible goaltending of Jake Allen. Although he did not look strong in the World Junior Championship final for Canada, Allen is arguably still the best goaltender in Canadian junior hockey today.
One of the strongest teams in Canada since the Christmas break, the Barrie Colts have run away with the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. They’ve got lots of firepower in Luke Pither (36 G, 58 A), Alex Hutchings (47 G, 34 A) and Bryan Cameron (53 G, 25 A) and a solid team dynamic that has made them into a consistently competitive team.
The Calgary Hitmen combine the best qualities of the Voltigeurs and the Colts – like Drummondville they’re the hottest team in the WHL and like Barrie they’ve got the best record in their league. In fact, it’s thanks to their 13-game points streak that they’ve been able to vault to the top of their standings.
Calgary will also have the benefit of the single best forward in the post-season: Brandon Kozun (32 G, 75A), Kozun has lit up the WHL to edge out Jordan Eberle for the Bob Clarke Trophy as the league’s leading scorer.
Friday, March 12 2010
QMJHL – Poulin has 26 saves as Tigres blank Lewiston
Goalies ruled the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Friday night.
Kevin Poulin turned aside 26 shots as the Victoriaville Tigres stormed past the Lewiston Maineiacs 5-0 in QMJHL action. (See more...)
OHL – Lindsay, Cuma and Nesbit lead 67’s past Generals
With just one more weekend left in the regular season, the Ottawa 67's are gearing up for the playoffs.
Cody Lindsay, Tyler Cuma and Thomas Nesbit scored third-period goals for the Ottawa 67's as they netted a 4-3 victory over the Oshawa Generals in Ontario Hockey League action Friday night. (See more...)
WHL – Wudrick strikes twice as Rockets down Giants
The Kelowna Rockets spoiled the coming home party for the Vancouver Giants Friday night.
Geordie Wudrick scored twice for the Rockets as they took a 4-3 game over the Giants in Western Hockey League action. (See more...)
Saturday, March 13 2010
WHL – Silvertips in a position to take conference
The Everett Silvertips put themselves in position to claim the Western Hockey League's U.S. Division title and the Western Conference's top seed Saturday night.
Thomas Heemskerk made 25 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Silvertips blanked the Chilliwack Bruins 5-0 in WHL action Saturday night. (See more...)
Sunday, March 14 2010
QMJHL – Voltigeurs pound on Maineiacs
Philippe Lefebvre and Jake Allen kept the Drummondville Voltigeurs white hot entering the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Lefebvre had a hat trick and an assist while Allen made 15 saves as the Voltigeurs blasted the Lewiston Maineiacs 7-0 in QMJHL action Sunday night. (See more...)
OHL – Nesbitt the OT hero as 67’s outlast Sudbury
The Ottawa 67's entered the Ontario Hockey League post-season in fine fashion Sunday night.
Thomas Nesbitt scored 2:46 into overtime as Ottawa eked out a 3-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves in OHL action. (See more...)
This weekend, when I wasn’t obsessing over the Olympics, I was all about the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It was an incredible couple of days with Moncton’s Nicola Riopel setting a goaltending record Saturday night, only to be topped less than 24 hours later by Drummondville’s Jake Allen. On top of that, Sunday saw Richard Martel become the winningest coach in league history when his Chicoutimi Sagueneens dropped the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1.
But first, let’s talk about goaltending.
As a gross generalization, each league within the Canadian Hockey League produces particularly strong types of players. The Western Hockey League’s rough and tumble style lends itself to defensively minded players who are always ready to drop their gloves. The Ontario Hockey League produces tight, disciplined players who focus on positioning and off-puck work. The QMJHL? It’s all about the goalies.
The league is a factory for superstar goaltenders – Felix Potvin played for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Roberto Luongo played for the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
As good as those two are, they’re not even the best to come out of the QMJHL. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, the two best goaltenders ever came from the league, setting the standard for all netminders worldwide.
So when Nicola Riopel of the Wildcats passes all those names on his way to the second-longest shutout streak in league history it’s kind of a big deal. Riopel’s record ended at 179 minutes 59 seconds Saturday night.
However, it was an even bigger deal when Jake Allen of the Voltigeurs passed Riopel the very next day. Allen lasted nearly ten minutes longer, going 188 minutes 47 seconds without giving up a goal.
Really, it’s incredible stuff, and shows that these two players will be around for a long time.
Of course, it was all over-shadowed by Martel’s accomplishment of winning 570 games as a coach. Martel’s never won the President’s Cup as a head coach, but he did win it as an assistant way back in 1990 with the Sagueneens who were backstopped by a young Potvin.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Martel this past weekend for a feature story, and I was impressed with his humility and dedication to the young men he teaches. I also spoke to league commissioner Gilles Croteau who went on at length about what an asset Martel is to the league and Canadian hockey in general.
What a great weekend for hockey in Quebec.
Friday, Feb. 26 2010
QMJHL – P.E.I. drops Chicoutimi 4-3 in shootout
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens earned a point for their coach Richard Martel, but not a coveted milestone.
Cody Linteau had the only goal in the shootout as the P.E.I. Rocket disappointed the Sagueneens 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night. (See more...)
OHL – Tanski, Hodgson help Battalion defeat Majors
Cody Hodgson's return to the Brampton Battalion could not have been more timely.
Scott Tanski and Hodgson combined for three goals and six points to spark the Battalion to a 4-0 victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Friday night in the Ontario Hockey League. (See more...)
WHL – Bloodoff brothers both score as Kelowna beats Oil Kings
Three streaks came to an end in Edmonton Friday night.
Brothers Lucas and Evan Bloodoff scored as the Kelowna Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Oil Kings in Western Hockey League action. (See more...)
Saturday, Feb. 27 2010
QMJHL – Wildcats edge Halifax as Riopel makes QMJHL history
Nicola Riopel has made his mark in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League history.
Riopel made 21 saves as the Moncton Wildcats edged the Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 on Saturday. (See more...)
OHL – Erie stays in playoff hunt with win over Ottawa
The struggle for playoff spots continues in the Ontario Hockey League.
Anthony Luciani and Greg McKegg scored twice as the Erie Otters dropped the Ottawa 67's 7-1 Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Stanton scores twice as Warriors edge Bruins
The Moose Jaw Warriors have made the most of their time at home.
Defenceman Ryan Stanton scored twice as Moose Jaw hung on to beat the Chilliwack Bruins 3-2 in Western Hockey League action Saturday. (See more...)
Sunday, Feb. 28 2010
QMJHL – Martel wins 570th as Chicoutimi sinks Baie-Comeau
Sunday was a record-setting day in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Chicoutimi Sagueneens' head coach Richard Martel earned his 570th career victory, the most in QMJHL history, as Chicoutimi sank the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1. (See more...)
OHL – Lopes scores two as Majors prevail over Oshawa
The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors are firing on all cylinders as the playoff window is closing on the Oshawa Generals.
Ryan Lopes scored a pair of goals and defencemen David Corrente and Blake Parlett had four-point games to power Mississauga to a 7-4 triumph over Oshawa in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)