The Seattle T-Birds came into Friday night’s Memorial Cup semi-final looking bigger, faster, and definitely more fresh than the Peterborough Pete’s, who were coming off a 5-4 overtime win the previous night in the round robin tie-breaker against the host Kamloops Blazers.
Seattle had a 31-16 shot advantage on Peterborough after two periods, but the score was only one-nothing. T-Birds Finnish-born forward Brad Lambert backhanded home a rebound with 4:28 remaining in the 2nd period. Despite all of the vulcanized rubber headed Petes goalie Michael Simpson’s way, the closest the T-Birds came to scoring earlier was when captain Lucas Ciona hit the post in the 1st minute of the period.
When Colton Dach scored just 1:28 into the 3rd, it felt like a foregone conclusion, a feeling that lasted just a minute-and-13-seconds. The never say die Petes took advantage of a sloppy T-Birds turnover in their own end and Brennan Othmann skated in alone and backhanded a puck past Seattle goalie Thomas Milic.
New game. That was until Kyle Crnkovic put a fork in it with his 5th of the tournament to give the Thunderbirds a 3-1 lead at 9:33 of the 3rd. The Pete’s had met their match.
“Some” had thought that this was the year of the Western Hockey League, suggesting a Kamloops – Seattle final appeared in order, but that’s why they play the games on ice and not on paper. Plus, someone forgot to tell the Quebec Remparts, champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
General manager and head coach Patrick Roy’s team, yes, the Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, took care of business against both WHL teams, beating the Blazers 8-3 on the opening night of the tournament and then handling the Thunderbirds 3-1 three nights later.
It was an impressive display, only to see the Remparts lose the very next night to the Petes 4-2. That set up the opportunity for the 1-and-2 Petes to play the 1-and-2 Blazers in Thursday’s tie-breaker for 3rd place and a trip to the semi. Kamloops had whomped Peterborough a couple nights earlier 10-2.
So here they go. The Remparts, a team that appears to prefer some rest, may actually may be getting too much. Aside from the fact they haven’t played since Tuesday night, throw in the Saturday off day, and we’re talking four idle evenings. The Thunderbirds will have their game legs and their confidence coming off Friday’s win.
Puck drop on Sunday is a little after 4 pm pacific. Seattle Hockey Insider is in Kamloops and will have a full preview and championship coverage.