The Canadian Hockey League’s three regional leagues – the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leauge (QMJHL), and Western Hockey League (WHL) – compete for Major Junior hockey’s richest prize. Sixty teams are eligible to compete.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Erie Otters have finally found that winning formula. Captain Dylan Strome and OHL defenceman/overage player of the year Darren Raddysh have both been part of the Otters since 2013 and leading into this year, they were part of some very strong teams.
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.
Rack up another QMJHL championship for the Saint John Sea Dogs. During the second week of May, the Sea Dogs captured their third league crown since 2011 when they swept the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (4-0) in this season’s President’s Cup final.
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.
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