Memorial Cup Final – Kelowna Rockets vs Oshawa Generals
Final: Kelowna 1 – Oshawa 2 ( OT )
What an exciting end to a fantastic tournament. I expected Oshawa would emerge as the winners, but Kelowna certainly made it more interesting than I expected. The Rockets have nothing to be ashamed of, as they were the better team on the ice for long stretches of time.
Oshawa came out a little flat to start the game, and struggled to impose their strong possession game plan. In fact, they ended the game being heavily outshot, a rarity for the OHL powerhouse. Kelowna scored five minutes into the game, and were in complete control. Momentum was on their side. Ken Appleby had to make some phenomenal saves to keep Oshawa within one goal. In hindsight, these saves were the determining factor in the game.
Oshawa was able to tie the game at one midway through the second period, thanks to a great shot from Anthony Cirelli, which seemed to re-energize a team that looked completely out of it. They controlled the play for the remainder of the second, and the early part of the third, trying to capitalize on their momentum. They experienced a drop-off in the second half of the third, aside from a Hunter Smith goal that was disallowed.
Overtime was short and sweet. Both teams exchanged a few chances before Cirelli was able to bang home a rebound from the slot to win the Memorial Cup for the Generals. What a moment. What a tournament.
Madison Bowey: Early in the tournament I was a little disappointed with Bowey. He was still playing well, but I knew he had more to give. Since then, his talent has been in full display. He uses his speed well in all three zones. He is solid defensively, is combative, stands his ground and is a force along the boards and in one on one battles. Offensively, I was impressed with his vision and playmaking abilities offensively, and has the makings of a true powerplay quarterback.
Nick Merkley: The draft eligible forward was all over the ice for Kelowna. He is a very dynamic playmaker, who presents a dual threat offensively, and can hold his own physically. He has a pass first mentality, and an excellent vision. He has the ability to make accurate passes, but has a dangerous shot if the defenders lean too much towards protecting against the pass. He supports teammates offensively, and gives a good outlet option. He doesn’t give up on plays, in either zone. In my opinion, he should be a top 15 draft pick. If he is not, the team taking him is getting great value for their draft slot.
Anthony Cirelli: What a time to play the best game of your career. He scored both Oshawa goals, on two very good plays. The first goal was scored on the rush, with an accurate far-side wrist shot. He tapped in a rebound for his second goal, but he did a good job of going to the net, and winning his position battle in the slot to be able to shoot the puck. In my opinion, the resilient forward does not project as an impactful professional player, but could be an interesting project worthy of a mid-round pick.
Dakota Mermis: This season featured a lot of big trades in the CHL. Draisaitl to Kelowna, Deangelo, Bailey, Ritchie to Sault Ste. Marie, Baptiste to Erie, to name a few. In hindsight, the trade sending Mermis and McCaaron to Oshawa turned out to be the most impactful. McCaaron was a force on offence, and Mermis was a rock defensively. In his third Memorial Cup, his experience was integral to this team. He is a solid defender, makes safe plays out of his own zone, and is solid in defensive zone coverage. Though he is not an offensive threat at the point, he uses his reach wisely to hold the play in the zone. He is certainly worthy of an AHL tryout, with a camp invite.