The Canadian Hockey League finals concluded over the weekend with three teams earning a spot in the 2018 Memorial Cup. The Swift Current Broncos, Acadie Bathurst-Titan and Hamilton Bulldogs will compete with the Regina Pats. NHL prospects Glenn Gawdin and Robert Thomas, along with free agent Jeffrey Truchon-Viel, were all named MVPs in their respective conference finals. The 2018 Memorial Cup begins Friday in Regina.
One Dream Ends, Another Begins for Glenn Gawdin and the Swift Current Broncos
The Everett Silvertips were destined for greatness all season. They won the U.S. Division title and the Western Conference title. Not much stopped them this year, until now.
The Swift Current Broncos had not won a WHL Championship since 1993. Their own destiny awaited them in the WHL Championship. The Everett Silvertips showed the same resilience that was their hallmark this season, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Glenn Gawdin (Calgary Flames) and his teammates. The Swift Current Broncos eliminated the Everett Silvertips with a 3-0 shutout in Game 6, taking the WHL Championship series 4-2.
Broncos goaltender Stuart Skinner got his WHL-leading sixth shutout of the 2018 WHL Playoffs. Captain Glenn Gawdin was named the 2018 WHL Playoffs MVP, registering 32 points in 24 games to lead the Broncos in scoring. Overage forward Giorgio Estephan is going out with a bang. He scored the Ed Chynoweth Cup-clinching goal early in the first period on a power play. To cap it off, the Edmonton Oilers just signed Skinner to an entry-level deal. That was just a matter of time. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the WHL.
The Everett Silvertips didn’t go down without a fight. Down 3-1 in the series, they fought back with a 6-3 win in Game 5, their final home game of the season. Game 6 was played in Swift Current, where the Broncos made one final push to earn their first WHL Championship title in 25 years. None of the players on either team were even born then. For overage players like Estephan, this is their final season. It’s also the 100th anniversary of the Memorial Cup, so it promises to be one for the record books.
Hamilton Bulldogs Claim First OHL Title in the City Since 1976
I was eight years old the last time a team from Hamilton, Ontario won an OHL Championship. Growing up in Arizona, I’d never been to a hockey game. I’d barely heard of it. I do however remember the last time the Portland Winterhawks won a Memorial Cup (1998) and the time they almost did it again in 2013. That’s how I know what it must be like for local Hamilton fans who can remember the last time their team won the OHL title.
The Hamilton Bulldogs secured the city’s first OHL Championship since the Hamilton Fincups in 1976 with a 5-4 home ice win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in Game 6. Down 3-2 after two periods, the Bulldogs struck back with three goals in the third period. Sault St. Marie defenseman Jordan Sambrook would put the Greyhounds within one, but the clock ran out and the Bulldogs won the series 4-2. With the win, the Bulldogs handed the 2017-18 Greyhounds their first-ever loss when leading after two periods.
St. Louis Blues prospect Robert Thomas was named the OHL Championship MVP. He led Hamilton in playoff scoring, finishing with a record of 12-20-32. Names like Glenn Gawdin, Robert Thomas, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk usually emerge in the headlines early on in their junior careers. Big things are expected of Thomas when he eventually joins the Blues. For now, he’s got one last chance to put a cherry on top of an already spectacular junior playoff season.
Acadie-Bathurst Titan Win First QMJHL Title Since 1999
Sunday marked another milestone victory in the CHL. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan edged out the Blainville-Broisbriand Armada for their first President’s Cup in almost 20 years. It’s their second QMJHL Championship since relocating to New Brunswick. The last one came in 1999. This also marks the second consecutive season that the Armada has fallen short of winning what could have been their first QMJHL title in franchise history. They were swept out of the final last year by the Saint John Sea Dogs.
It only took two goals for the Titan to claim a 2-1 victory in Game 6 and with it, the league title. Team captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel was named MVP of the QMJHL Championship. Known for his aggressive style of play, Viel made headlines last February when he was suspended four games for a high-speed, intentional head hit. The Titan’s coaches like the fact that he’s a warrior, and it paid off for them in playoffs.
Honestly, I had pegged the Armada as the winner of this series. Standouts Alexandre Alain and Alex Barré-Boulet have impressed all season. Part of it is just their team name. It sounds like they’re ready for battle.
For my two cents, QMJHL teams have the best names in the CHL. My personal favourite is the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Who wouldn’t be afraid of them? Runner-up is the Drummondville Voltigeurs, simply known as The Volts. Historically, Voltigeurs were French military skirmish units created in 1804 by Emperor Napoleon. You get the idea here. Every team in the QMJHL sounds like they are ready for a battle.
The Past is Present
Every team competing in the 2018 Memorial Cup is about to become part of a long and rich history. Whether it’s the Bulldogs or the Titan or even the host Regina Pats, they all have the potential to make headlines for more than just the next two weeks. The last time Hamilton won an OHL title, I was in elementary school. If they wait another 42 years for a championship I could be dead by then. That’s a staggering thought, but it also makes you appreciate living in the moment.
Only one team will walk away with the Memorial Cup, but the final full week of May will give us plenty of moments to live in. As for my tournament analysis and predictions, those are forthcoming later this week. But for now, stick tap to the teams who made it this far and to those who put up a good fight trying. The one thing I can say with 100 percent certainty is to enjoy the ride. You never know when it might come around again.
Embed from Getty Images