KITCHENER, Ont. – The Memorial Cup was in two pieces, which meant there was more of it for the Spokane Chiefs to hoist above their heads.
Spokane beat the host Kitchener Rangers 4-1 to win the 90th Memorial Cup on Sunday.
Captain Chris Bruton lifted the trophy over his head twice and kissed it and then as he was about to hand it to teammate Trevor Glass, the cup became separated from its heavy base, which fell to the ice.
While that prompted boos from spectators at Memorial Auditorium already disappointed that their home team lost, the good news is that it’s a replica trophy.
The one that has been handed out to the junior hockey champion since 1919 is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“It just kind of crumbled in my hands and I’m sure I’ll be all over YouTube and I’ll get e-mails for the rest of my life over that, but I don’t care because we won the Cup and that’s all that matters,” said Bruton.
“It’s just as beautiful and maybe more beautiful that we have that top off and we can drink from the cup a little easier.”
Chiefs goaltender Dustin Tokarski is rated No. 9 among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting for next month’s NHL draft and his stock should soar after his 53-save performance.
The 18-year-old from Watson, Sask., was chosen the most valuable player of the tournament. The Rangers were all over him in the third period as they outshot Spokane 25-7, but Tokarski weathered the storm.
“That was the longest third period of my life,” he said. “When we got that fourth goal, it was an amazing feeling.”
The Rangers were the favourite heading into this tournament, as they were the No. 1 ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League 15 of the last 16 weeks of the season.
Spokane may have been ranked No. 2 at season’s end, but came into this tournament somewhat under the radar.
The Chiefs don’t have the high-octane offence that Kitchener has, but Spokane dismantled that attack Sunday by taking time, space and the middle scoring lanes away, while making the most of turnovers and power-play chances.
A U.S.-based team won the Canadian Hockey League championship for only the fourth time in history after Spokane (1991) and Portland (1983 and ’98).
Spokane, a city of about 225,000 in eastern Washington, has had a WHL franchise since 1985.
Drayson Bowman, a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick, Judd Blackwater and defenceman Trevor Glass scored for the Chiefs with Jared Cowen adding an empty-net goal.
Bruton, from Calgary, had two assists.
Glass, from Cochrane, Alta., has seen both sides of a Memorial Cup final after losing to Vancouver last year when he played for Medicine Hat. Spokane acquired him at the January trade deadline.
“You put your heart and soul into the game and last year the outcome didn’t come and it was always in the back of my mind throughout the whole season,” Glass said. “I definitely wanted to leave with no regrets and it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Brandon Mashinter replied for the Rangers and goalie Josh Unice made 23 saves.
The Chiefs’ checking line of Levko Koper, Tyler Johnson and Justin McCrae silenced Kitchener’s top trio of Matt Halischuk, Justin Azevedo and Nick Spaling, who had combined for 28 points in the tournament prior to the final.
Spokane held Kitchener scoreless on four power-play chances.
“They’re a great team defensively,” Halischuk said. “They block a lot of shots. We were around the net tonight and fired everything at them and unfortunately didn’t come up on the right side tonight.”
The Chiefs went 4-0 in the Memorial Cup and earned the bye to Sunday’s final with the best record in the round-robin.
Spokane had four days of rest before the championship, while Kitchener played Belleville twice during that span in a preliminary-round game and the semifinal.
The Rangers carried the play for the first 10 minutes Sunday as they used their speed to relentlessly pressure the Chiefs in their own zone. They scored five minutes in to take a lead for the fifth time in five games in the tournament.
But Kitchener then ran into penalty trouble, which opened up the ice for the Chiefs. Two of their next three goals came on a man advantage and they led 3-1 going into the third period.
While the Rangers had problems defending leads earlier in this tournament, the Chiefs have no such trouble. They were 41-3 when leading after two periods during the regular season.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to walk off the ice and say I won my last game,” Spokane head coach Bill Peters said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling, but (I feel) a lot of pride, especially for our city, our organization and 24 guys.”
The Chiefs, owned by brothers and former baseball players George and Bobby Brett, finished tied for last in the Western Hockey League two seasons ago and have put together a remarkable turnaround.
Tokarski was also named top goaltender of the tournament and Halischuk most sportsmanlike. Azevedo, the CHL’s player of the year and top scorer, led the Memorial Cup in scoring with four goals and seven assists in five games.
Tokarski, Azevedo, Bowman, Spokane’s Mitch Wahl and Justin Falk, and Kitchener defenceman Ben Shutron were named to the all-star team.,
Notes(at) – The 2009 Memorial Cup will be held in Rimouski, Que. . . . The WHL has won the Memorial cup 18 times, the OHL 11 and the QMJHL seven . . . Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz was the team’s GM on the Cup-winning team of 1991 . . .. . . The Memorial Cup trophy has been handed to the junior hockey championship since 1919 in honour of those who died in the First World War . . . Former Kitchener Rangers and Memorial Cup winners Derek Roy (2003) and Scott Stevens (1982) took part in the pre-game ceremonial puck drop. …Total attendance for the tournament was 53,545.