Heading into tonight's game, analysts fortold that the Memorial Cup Final would pit the speed of Kelowna against the tough defense of Oshawa. The Generals won it tonight with a score of 2-1, on the strength of a hard-earned final tally at 1:28 in overtime.
The goal, by Oshawa's 17-year-old (draft-eligible) Anthony Cirelli, was a dirty rebound. The initial shot from Chris Carlisle was saved by Kelowna goaltender Jackson Whistle, but swiftly found by Cirelli's stick to spin low past Whistle's reaching glove, sweetly into the net. The game-winning goal was Cirelli's second of the night.
Anthony Cirelli's Memorial Cup winning goal pic.twitter.com/Rj3Pq1iUdM— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) June 1, 2015
The game was much like the first-round match between Kelowna and Oshawa several weeks ago, a low-scoring affair with solid defense and stellar goaltending from Oshawa's Ken Appleby and Kelowna's Whistle.
For the first 30 minutes, Kelowna's speed won out. Possession was held in Oshawa's defensive zone by Kelowna's defensemen skating far forward to join the rush. An offensive zone faceoff for Kelowna, won by Cole Linaker, sent the puck back to Madison Bowey, whose initial shot was played by Appleby to the boards.
Tomas Soustal (Draft-eligible, from the Czech Republic) skated in to pick it up, and faked out Appleby just enough to clear space over the goaltender's left shoulder. First blood was drawn by speed, and Kelowna held the momentum and lead into the second.
The second had mounting offense from Kelowna and lackluster play by the Generals, until a string of two powerplays (both killed) gave the zone and momentum back to the Generals. With six minutes left, the Generals found their mojo. The Generals had hold of the offensive zone, and Cirelli found a way to score. Cirelli's first goal was from a pass by Dakota Mermis, high glove side on Whistle.
They would head into the third tied at one. The third was all Appleby, as he stopped wave after wave of pressure from Kelowna (especially from noteworthy player Nick Merkley). Shots mounted to 34-24, Kelowna, by the end of the period. Appleby held strong, giving the Generals an important chance toward the end of the frame.
Two minutes left in the third found the Generals buzzing in front of Whistle, with Hunter Smith batting a puck mid-air into the goal. It beat Whistle high, but the goal was immediately sent to review. Although it was called on the ice, a review disallowed the goal for being batted in with the stick held higher than the crossbar of the goal.
The Generals' character was definitely tested after this near miss, with Kelowna taking advantage of the loss of momentum to power into the Generals' defensive zone. The final few minutes before overtime were spent pressuring Appleby, but he held strong.
It would take almost no time at all in overtime for Cirelli, the only Oshawa forward to score, to net another one, making the Generals the first team to clinch the championship with an overtime goal twice in Memorial Cup history (their first was in 1990). The OHL has not won the memorial cup since the Windsor Spitfires took it home in 2010.
MVP was awarded to Oiler's prospect and Rocket Leon Draisaitl. The game was also the last that will ever be held in the Quebec City Colisée, a 66-year-old arena that is scheduled for demolition in the fall.
Memorial Cup MVP pic.twitter.com/7765XzbEuD— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) June 1, 2015