Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Memorial Cup 2009 preview

As far as junior hockey goes, all eyes are on Rimouski, Quebec, as four teams get set to do battle for the 2009 Memorial Cup.

Will the Kelowna Rockets give the Western Hockey League bragging rights for a third straight year?

Can the Windsor Spitfires win the tournie for the Ontario Hockey League?

Or will it be one of the two Quebec teams – the Drummondville Voltigeurs or the host-Rimouski Oceanics – taking home the title?

Only one of these teams will still be standing come the final whistle on Sunday, May 24th...but WHO?! Here’s a look at each team:

Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

The Kelowna Rockets probably had the hardest road to travel compared to their fellow combatants in this tournament. The Rockets had to beat three of the top four teams in the WHL to make it this far, including the Calgary Hitmen who were the number one team in the country (and finished 24 points ahead of Kelowna). But they did it, and that’s what should make their opponents leery.

Who to watch:

Jamie Benn and Mikael Backlund each scored a league-high 13 goals in the playoffs, with Benn, Cody Almond and Backlund finishing 1-2-4 in playoff scoring. Backlund is a highly-touted prospect of the Calgary Flames.

Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

After going an impressive 57-10-0-1 in the regular season, the Windsor Spitfires lost just four games on the path to capturing the Ontario Hockey League championship. At the end of the regular season, the Spitfires were number two in the CHL rankings, the highest ranked team still playing. Windsor scored a league-best 311 goals during the regular season, while allowing the fewest in the OHL (171).

Who to watch:

Taylor Hall and rookie Andrei Loktionov led the Windsor offence in the playoffs, combining for 69 points in 20 games. Defenseman Ryan Ellis will be a key to their success as well (led all d-men with 89 points in 57 games; 31 points in 20 playoff games).

Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

The CHL’s number three ranked Drummondville Voltigeurs earned their first ever regular season title with an impressive 54-10-0-4 record and went 16-3 in the playoffs for their first ever league title. The Voltigeurs ended the season/playoffs on a tear, winning 20 games in a row before a game two loss in the QMJHL finals against Shawinigan. Overall, they have now won 23 of their last 26 games.

Who to watch:

Well a team that scores 345 regular season goals and then 109 more in the playoffs is bound to have some dynamic forwards. Yannik Riendeau scored 29 goals and 52 points in 19 playoff games which is a whopping 2.7 points-per-game (even crazier when you consider his 1.9 ppg pace during the season). Goalie Marco Cousineau is coming off a 45-save performance in his team’s game seven, title clinching win.

Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL/Host)

The host-Rimouski Oceanic, like the Kelowna Rockets, didn’t have the greatest of years but still put up pretty good numbers, going 44-23-1-0 in the regular season. The Oceanic were 8-1 in the playoffs, too, before going four-and-out against Drummondville. The host team has made the Memorial Cup final in each of the last five years, winning the tournament three times in that span. The Oceanic haven’t been to the finals since Sidney Crosby’s last season of junior in 2005, a loss to Corey Perry and the London Knights.

Who to watch:

Forward Phillippe Cornet led the team in scoring with 29 goals and 77 points in the regular season, chipping in another 15 points in 13 playoff games.

Predictions:

I’m going to pick Kelowna and Windsor in the final, with the Spitfires winning it all.

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