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2018 Memorial Cup preview: The second best teams compete for the cup

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The Memorial Cup and Regina Pats share centennial celebrations this year as some unexpected teams battle for the national title.

Last year Jeremy Bracco and the host Windsor Spitfires lost in the first round of the OHL playoffs but went undefeated in the tournament.
Aaron Bell / CHL Images

It all began in 1918, when the president of the Ontario Hockey Association was serving as a captain in the Canadian military in France. He was remembering those who played under him and in his league but didn’t make it home from the war. He wanted those men to be remembered in the hockey community, and so he suggested a trophy to be awarded to the best junior hockey team in Canada, a memorial to those who have fallen. The OHA donated the trophy to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, who held a championship series between the best teams from the west and the east of Canada. In 1919 a two game total goal series was held in Toronto between the University of Toronto Schools and the Regina Pats (then Patricia).

Now, 100 years later the Pats are once again playing for the national championship; hosting the league champions from the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League.

Game one is tonight, and we have ten nights of hockey to follow before the champion is crowned on May 27th.

The Participants

Regina Pats (Host)

17/18 record: 40-25-6-1, 7th overall
Playoff result: Defeated in round one in seven games by Swift Current Broncos
Top Scorer: Cameron Hebig (Edmonton Oilers) - 66GP, 41G, 49A, 90Pts
Starting Goalie: Ryan Kubic (undrafted) - 32GP, 0.889sv%, 3.62GAA
Memorial Cup appearances: 16 - 1919, 1922, 1925, 1928, 1930, 1933, 1950, 1952, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1969, 1974, 1980, 2001, 2018
Memorial Cup Championships: 4 - 1925, 1928, 1930, 1974

The Regina Pats are following in the footsteps of recent host city champions. Like the Windsor Spitfires (2017) and Shawinigan Cataractes (2012), they exited the playoffs early and took a few weeks off to rest and recover from the long regular season before jumping in to the Memorial Cup games. The Pats were easily defeated in the WHL playoffs, they took the eventual champion Swift Current Broncos to seven games and lost game seven by just one goal.

The Pats made a lot of trades this year, bringing in their eventual top scorer and starting goalie to try and have a more successful post-season as tournament hosts. With lots of hype around the bidding for this tournament (and ticket prices to match), the Pats have lots of in-house and local pressure to follow in the Spitfires footsteps.

Swift Current Broncos (WHL Champions)

17/18 record: 48-17-5-2, 2nd overall
Playoff result: Defeated Regina Pats 4-3, defeated Moose Jaw Warriors 4-3, defeated Lethbridge Hurricanes 4-2, defeated Everett Silvertips 4-2
Top Scorer: Glen Gawdin (Calgary Flames) - 67GP, 56G, 69A, 125Pts
Starting Goalie: Stuart Skinner (Edmonton Oilers) - 56GP, .905sv%, 3.07GAA, 6SO
Memorial Cup appearances: 3 - 1989, 1993, 2018
Memorial Cup Championships: 1 - 1989

The Broncos were the second best team in the Western Hockey League this year, finishing the season six points behind first place Moose Jaw — their second round opponent. They had a long road out of the WHL with two seven game series and two six game series. Possibly the tiredest team in the tournament after you combine all those games with the NHL-like travel they had to endure during the playoffs.

The Broncos had three players with over 100 points — Gawdin - 125pts, Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) - 118 pts, and Tyler Steenbergen (Arizona Coyotes) - 102pts. They traded with the Lethbridge Hurricanes to obtain Stuart Skinner to solidify their goaltending, and they finished the WHL season with the best power play (24.1%), third best penalty kill (79.5%) — important stats as special teams can help you win in short tournaments.

Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL Champions)

17/18 record: 43-15-8-2, 2nd Overall
Playoff result: Defeated Chicoutimi Sagueens 4-2, defeated Sherbrooke Phoenix 4-0, defeated Victoriaville Tigres 4-0, defeated Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 4-2
Top Scorer: Antoine Morand (Anaheim Ducks) - 66GP, 26G, 50A, 76Pts
Starting Goalie: Evan Fitzpatrick (St. Louis Blues) - 46GP, .893sv%, 2.90GAA, 1SO
Memorial Cup appearances: 7 - As Laval Voisins: 1984, As Laval Titan: 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, As Acadie-Bathurst Titan: 1999, 2018
Memorial Cup Championships: 0

The Titan (pronounced Tee-tahn) are from the smallest city in the CHL; Bathurst, NB has a population of 13,424 — smaller than any NHL arena capacity. They are the epitome of junior hockey lore, a small town rallying around the local teens to show up the big cities of Halifax and Saint John and Montreal and seeing them succeed.

The Titan didn’t have a top points scorer in the Q this year, their top player Antoine Morand barely made the top 15 in the league by one point. They surprised many by finishing at the top of the QMJHL, behind only their finals opponent Blainville-Boisbriand, and then having two sweeps in the playoffs. The little town that could saw their team defeat a team from the suburbs of Montreal, and now saw them off to Regina, to bring home the first Memorial Cup in franchise history.

Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL Champions)

17/18 record: 43-18-4-3, 2nd Overall
Playoff result: Defeated Ottawa 67’s 4-1, defeated Niagara IceDogs 4-1, defeated Kingston Frontenacs 4-1, defeated Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4-2
Top Scorer: Robert Thomas (St. Louis Blues) - 49GP, 24G, 51A, 75Pts
Starting Goalie: Kaden Fulcher (Detroit Red Wings) - 55GP, .899sv%, 2.86GAA, 3SO
Memorial Cup appearances: 3 - As Belleville Bulls: 1999, 2008, as Hamilton Bulldogs: 2018
Memorial Cup Championships: 0

The only team smart enough to have a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect (Nicolas Mattinen), the Bulldogs shocked the OHL by defeating the record setting Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the finals of the OHL playoffs. The Bulldogs were building for a championship from last year, when they were in the bidding to host the Memorial Cup tournament this year, but fell short of what Regina could offer as host city.

The Bulldogs brought in Mattinen and Thomas at the OHL trade deadline to help given them some veteran experience - both won the Memorial Cup in 2016 with the London Knights. The Bulldogs are the only team in this tournament this year who haven’t won a Memorial Cup and look to bring the first major hockey championship to Hamilton since the AHL Bulldogs won the Calder Cup in 2007.

Format

The tournament format is a six-game round-robin tournament, so each team plays the other once. The first place team receives a bye to the finals, and second and third place will face off in a semi-final.

If there is a tie between third and fourth place a tie breaker game will be played. If there’s a tie between first and second or second and third the head to head game from the round robin will be the tie-breaker. If there’s a three way tie, well you’re cheering for chaos and you can find out the rules here.

Schedule

The tournament begins tonight with the host Regina Pats taking on the OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs. This isn’t as easy a tournament for anyone east of Saskatchewan to watch, as the province doesn’t recognize daylight savings time. An 8PM start means 10PM local time for Hamilton and 11PM for Acadie-Bathrust.

Below you can find the schedule (all times Eastern because it’s the best timezone):

May 18th: Hamilton Bulldogs vs Regina Pats - 10PM
May 19th: Swift Current Broncos vs Acadie-Bathurst Titan - 4PM
May 20th: Regina Pats vs Acadie-Bathurst Titan - 7PM
May 21st: Swift Current Broncos vs Hamilton Bulldogs - 8PM
May 22nd: Acadie-Bathurst Titan vs Hamilton Bulldogs - 10PM
May 23rd: Regina Pats vs Swift Current Broncos - 10PM
May 24th: 3rd place vs 4th place tie breaker if necessary - 8PM
May 25th: Semi-Final - 2nd place vs 3rd/4th - 10PM
May 27th: Championship - 1st vs SF Winner - 7PM

How to watch at home

All games can be found on TV on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada, and the NHL Network in the US. You can stream the games online on CHL Live pay-per-view.

How to watch live

If you want to go to the games, you’re in luck! The Brandt Centre in Regina holds over 7,000 people and if previous tournaments are any indication there will be plenty of tickets to be had as walk ups. Just be prepared to pay, as Regina Pats games are $85-$93 per seat and non-Pats games are $65-$75.

(This problem has been recognized by next years host, the Halifax Mooseheads, and they’re offering the lowest walk up prices in five years)

If you’re going to be in Regina for opening weekend, I suggest attending the CHL Fan Breakfast. It’s a fan-run event that raises money for a local charity and gives junior hockey fans from across the country a chance to meet and mingle and get some great swag — you can read a recap of last year’s event here and find info for this year’s meet up here.


I love the Memorial Cup and am incredibly disappointed I can’t be there in person this year. If you can go, go. If you can’t, save up, and let’s meet up in Halifax next year.