Gabriel Vilardi has established himself as a workhorse who is ultra-competitive in the offensive zone. He has deceptive speed and an easy long stride to stay ahead of the defenceman.
Gabriel Vilardi checks off nearly every box of what a team would want from an NHL prospect. His 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame gives him a great foundation to work with when it comes to moulding an NHL body and then there’s all the tangibles he possesses that have made him an elite two-way forward with the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.
On Sunday, the Windsor Spitfires became the seventh host team to win the Memorial Cup without winning its respective league championship. The win has many criticizing the format, some even spouting off that the Spitfires didn’t deserve to win—but that’s nothing but a lot of hot air.
The best was saved for last at this year’s Mastercard Memorial Cup. A tournament that featured three blowout decisions through six round robin games ended with the closest and wildest affair on Sunday with the host Windsor Spitfires defeating the OHL champion Erie Otters 4-3.
Now an NHL star with the New Jersey Devils, he was fortunate enough to be a Windsor Spitfire for three seasons and was their best player in their back-to-back Memorial Cup runs in 2009 and 2010. On Saturday, he returned to Windsor for a homecoming of sorts during the CHL Alumni Game, held in advance of Sunday’s Memorial Cup.
When HockeyNow published its Memorial Cup issue last week, we did a panel where four of us made our predictions for the tournament results. Three of us picked the Spitfires to finish last, with one of us figuring them for third.
The Windsor Spitfires are one win away from a storybook ending at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. While the junior hockey world questioned what they’d be able to do coming out of a six-week layoff after they were eliminated in the first round of the OHL playoffs, the Memorial Cup hosts have defied most expectations by defeating all three league champions in the round-robin.
Michael DiPietro is more of the extrovert while his Windsor Spitfires teammate Gabe Vilardi seems more subdued. But they’re both all business during the Mastercard Memorial Cup as the Spitfires aim to book their ticket to the final with a win over the Erie Otters in a battle of two undefeated teams to conclude the round-robin.
Sean Day has truly benefited from a change of scenery with the Mastercard Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires. In three seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads, it was clear that he had a lot of talent, but he struggled to find his identity as a defenceman and faced a lot of scrutiny from many who didn’t feel he lived up to the “exceptional status” label he was given in 2013.
Judging from the Windsor Spitfires performance on opening night of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, their 44 day layoff from the CHL postseason suited them just fine. On April 4, Windsor was eliminated from the OHL playoffs after losing in seven games to the London Knights.
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 Windsor Spitfires are underdogs at this year’s Memorial Cup, but the team has plenty of weapons at its disposal – and a tank full of gas. The City of Windsor last hosted the Memorial Cup in 1981, back when it was held in neutral cities. Since the format was restructured in 1983, the Spitfires have played in the tournament three times – advancing to the final on each occasion. They won twice, in 2009 and 2010.
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