The 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup came to a close this evening. The final featured the heavily favoured Guelph Storm facing off against the Edmonton Oil Kings. NHL General Managers have invested their time, money and resources to identifying and developing these young men into professionals. There were lots of eyes on this game.
Going into this game it would have seemed as though Guelph was the deeper team. Long time NHLer Scott Walker is the Owner/Head Coach. He believes in rolling four lines, keeping all the guys involved and getting production from all spots in your line-up. Edmonton’s Head Coach is Derek Laxdal. Although his squad hasn’t been built quite as deep as Walkers – they have the fire power with the likes of Edgars Kulda, Reid Petryk, Kurtis Lazar, Griffin Reinhart, Henrik Samuelsson and Cody Corbett.
Although the game started as expected with Guelph lighting the lamp less than a minute into the game, the storyline was a roller coaster. Edmonton quickly tied the game, and then fell behind again 2 – 1. I was following Jets draft pick Scott Kosmachuk closely throughout the game. He had a very quiet game, although he did have his chances and was even involved in a couple of altercations.
The Oil Kings Assistant Captain, Cody Corbett did an interview in the second intermission – it was great. He mentioned, “Weathering the Storm.” I liked that line a lot. Oftentimes interviews in sports can become more of a cliché than a valid truth. I loved that line because I found it to be very applicable. That was exactly what the Oil Kings needed to do better in the second if they were to stay relevant in the game.
The second period was dominated by the Edmonton Oil Kings. As the period progressed it was evident that the Oil Kings came out fired up. Tying closely with Corbett’s quote, it was evident that the Oil Kings were having success against what was touted to be the deeper team. They weren’t being flashy, they were doing the little things right, and really focusing on diminishing Guelph’s opportunities, they can be so explosive offensively. Kulda really stood out, scoring a beautiful goal picking the top corner blocker side on Guelph’s goaltender, Justin Nichols. They scored a total of three in the period – taking a commanding 4 – 2 lead to start the third period.
Very early in the third Guelph was able to put one home. Zack Mitchell caught Edmonton Goalie Tristan Jarry cheating on a potential wrap around, the puck popped out on the side Jarry did not expect and Mitchell had the goal. You could see the energy being rejuvenated on the Guelph bench.
It was short lived however, when Edgars Kulda (who never ceases to impress) made a beautiful cross ice feed to Henrik Samuelsson. The two goal lead was restored. With the score at 5 – 3, the Storm pulled their goalie in hopes of getting two. A mad scramble ensued, it ended with Kosmachuk having his hands in the air hoping to sell it to the ref, to no avail. Shortly after, Samuelsson picked one of the Guelph Defenceman’s pockets and buried into the empty cage. The game would end 6 – 3.
Regardless of the storyline heading into this game, the better team won on this day. It was an emotional victory, playing for one of their fallen comrades. Kristians Pelss passed away earlier this year in a tragic incident in which details still remain unclear. Edmonton played for him tonight, and the game had a bitter sweet ending – one that to me, seems to make sense. But it’s important to acknowledge the efforts of both squads and all that goes into enduring the long season, and this tournament. This is no easy feat.
It’s true that typically no one remembers the loser of any final. I think it’s important to emphasize that these young men are still people. It was a hard fought tournament, every player played his heart out. The look of agony and defeat in these young men’s eyes was tragic.
As a Jets fan it was disappointing to see our pick (Kosmachuk) struggle, and ultimately lose. But he did have a good tournament. In one game he scored a hat-trick, he finished with 5 points in 4 games – and maybe most importantly was rated at a +3. He’s a talented young man, and he has a bright future ahead.
Congratulations are in order to the Edmonton Oil Kings – who have won their first Memorial Cup since 1966. It is one of the most difficult trophy’s to win in all of sports, not just hockey. The road to Memorial Cup is long and strenuous. These Oil Kings will forever be etched into the history books. Well done!