Back in March, Rachel Homan and the rest of her team from Ottawa were basically handed their first Women’s World Curling Championship before they even played the championship game, which they ended up losing to Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher.
That scenario played out yet again in the 2014 Memorial Cup championship game in London on Sunday, as the heavily favoured Guelph Storm were upset by the Edmonton Oil Kings by a score of 6-3, which brought a unfortunate end to the best season in franchise history.
Like what happened to Team Homan in Saint John, the Storm played their worst game at the wrong time. Okay, it wasn’t a horrible performance or anything like that, but an okay showing in the title contest wasn’t going to cut it, especially in comparison to how they played in the round-robin.
Since the game ended, I’ve been trying to figure out when the last time a stunner like this happened in the final. Okay, Shawinigan’s win in 2012 was probably the last shocker, but that was more along the lines of crazy their run was. When it comes to a team losing after getting a bye to the finals with a perfect round-robin record, the last team to have that happen to them was the 1992 Soo Greyhounds, when they lost 5-4 to the Kamloops Blazers on Zac Boyer’s game-winning goal with 14 seconds left.
(I may have just thrown my computer across the room after typing that sentence, but that’s another story for another day. I mean, I was only four when that game happened. Thank goodness the hometown team won it all a year later in the Memorial Gardens.)
As I mentioned earlier though, while the ending sucked, this was an incredible ride for Guelph this year. They had the top team in the regular season, easily shoved London and Erie aside in the playoffs, won its first league title in over a decade, and were one win away from going down as one of the best squads in OHL history.
The loss on Sunday’s going to sting for awhile for Storm fans, but I think as the summer rolls on, they can hold their heads up high after a magical last few months.
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oil Kings completed a wild season of their own with the franchise’s first Memorial Cup, and the first for the city of Edmonton since the original Oil Kings team (who are now the Portland Winterhawks) won it all in 1966.
Sunday’s performance was easily the best of the tournament for the WHL champions, as all of the top offensive weapons came out to play. The most impressive showing though came from forward Henrik Samuelsson, who had two goals and three assists to match Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin’s five-point outings in last year’s championship game.
The Memorial Cup triumph wraps up an impressive three-year run for the Oil Kings, which saw them reach three league finals and win the WHL championship on two occasions. With guys like Samuelsson, Mitch Moroz, Reid Petryk, Cody Corbett, and Griffin Reinhart all moving on after this season, this was probably the last chance to win it all before their championship window was slammed shut.
With the memory of former teammate Kristians Pelss (who tragically drowned last summer) spurring them on all year long, the Oil Kings worked through a number of obstacles on its way to the top of the mountain. Whether it was their fight for the Eastern Conference title with the Calgary Hitmen, the seven-game battle in the WHL finals with the Winterhawks, or it’s triple-overtime contest with Val-d’Or in the Memorial Cup semi, this team took on every challenge head-on and earned the Memorial Cup trophy.
I can’t finish up talking about the Oil Kings without mention this year’s tournament MVP, Latvia’s own Edgars Kulda. The younger brother of Arturs had a coming out party during the tournament, as he had seven points in five games and was the best player for Edmonton all week long. He should hopefully be rewarded for his efforts by being selected in June’s NHL Draft, which will no doubt be Kulda Approved.
And with that, another crazy year of junior hockey is in the record books. From the chaos in Lethbridge, the tragic passing of Saginaw’s Terry Trafford, and the wild Game 7 in the QMJHL Finals, the amount of emotions that everyone felt during the 2013/14 season was something I won’t forget, and will hopefully not have to go through ever again.
When it comes down to it, junior hockey has always been a way of escape and a ton of fun for me, so I truly wish that the biggest talking points next season will be what happens on the ice and with the games that are taking place. It’s going to be a long hot summer until everything gets rolling once again, and I can’t wait until everyone gets back on the ice for the 2014/15 campaign.