The Windsor Spitfires defied the odds en route to their first Memorial Cup championship Sunday.
The Spitfires became the first team in history under the current format to win the Canadian Hockey League title after starting the tournament with back-to-back losses, beating the Kelowna Rockets 4-1 in the final in Rimouski, Que.
Spitfires forward Taylor Hall, a top prospect for the 2010 NHL entry draft, was tournament MVP after helping the 34-year-old franchise win its first Memorial Cup.
“Our team’s used to doing it the hard way and I don’t think we’d do it any way but that,” Spitfires blue-liner Ryan Ellis told Sportsnet. “We’ve done it together and it’s special. We’re never going to forget this and it’s been a blast.”
The Rockets, who had been off for four days after earning a bye to the final, were rusty early, allowing three goals in a 3:11 stretch starting 3:22 into the first period.
Adam Henrique, Dale Mitchell and Rob Kwiet did the offensive damage for the Spitfires in the first. Kelowna’s Colin Long scored eight seconds into the second period but Ellis delivered the knockout punch at 12:38 later.
Spitfires goaltender Andrew Engelage made 17 saves.
“We got three goals on three shots,” said Hall, who had eight points in six games. “It gave us confidence and we got our game rolling. From there, it was a little bit easier.”
Although the Ontario Hockey League champion Spits were pre-tourney favourites, Kelowna, attending its fourth Memorial Cup in seven years, entered as underdogs after upsetting the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League final.
“It’s disappointing to lose and it hurts but you have to look at our overall season,” Rockets blue-liner Tyler Meyers told Sportsnet. “You have to give our guys credit. We had an unbelievable year, and give Windsor credit. They played great.”