Entering the Mastercard Memorial Cup, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ No. 1 goalie spot was Carl Stankowski’s to lose. That in itself is pretty remarkable since he started this season as a true 16-year-old rookie and was thrown into the fire through the entire WHL playoffs as he replaced injured starter Rylan Toth and backed the Thunderbirds to their first ever WHL championship.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal and Thomas Chabot are all at the Mastercard Memorial Cup playing prominent roles for their teams.
The Seattle Thunderbirds are up against the brink for the first time in more than a year. The Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires truly had their way with the WHL champions Sunday at the WFCU Centre, sending the Thunderbirds to the bottom of the standings while placing themselves firmly on top.
Carl Stankowski continues to be the story for the Seattle Thunderbirds. The T-Birds left the WFCU Centre with a 4-2 loss to the OHL champion Erie Otters in the first all-American Memorial Cup matchup since 2007, but Stankowski was the reason Seattle stayed in the conversation until the final buzzer.
After 68 games (72 in the WHL), four playoff rounds, countless hours spent at practices and on the bus, it all comes down to this. The Erie Otters, Saint John Sea Dogs and Seattle Thunderbirds all captured championships in their respective leagues and will push a little further through four to six games in an effort to claim junior hockey supremacy at the Memorial Cup.
The Seattle Thunderbirds defied all odds in the Western Hockey League playoffs. From missing out on a divisional banner to the Everett Silvertips, to losing starting goaltender Rylan Toth due to injury and being an overwhelming underdog against the CHL’s top-ranked Regina Pats — the T-Birds have heard it all before, but none of that stopped them from avenging last season’s heartbreaking loss in the final and punching their ticket to the Memorial Cup.
Major junior coaches demand a lot of their players and three teams delivered in a big way with championship seasons. They’ll now join the host Windsor Spitfires at this year’s Memorial Cup, where it’s up to the coaches to guide the way as everyone gives an extra push towards national glory.
Many expected that the 2017 Memorial Cup would feature 1, 2 and 3 from CHL’s Top Ten. But Seattle defeated the No. 1 Regina Pats to leave us with 2 and 3 in the Otters and Sea Dogs – and to remind us that anything can happen.
All three CHL leagues are down to two teams, and the final round is set to begin this week. All three league powerhouses have advanced to the finals, but they’ll have to overcome some hot underdogs to advance to the Memorial Cup.
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