The Kelowna Rockets have punched their ticket to the Memorial Cup. After dominating the WHL post-season, the Rockets defeated the Brandon Wheat Kings 3-0 to sweep the WHL final and win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as league champions. Edmonton Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl was named the playoff MVP.
The Memorial Cup has its third competitor as the Kelowna Rockets will be heading to Quebec to compete for major junior’s grandest prize following a sweep of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL final.
The Rockets, who defeated the Wheat Kings 3-0 in the fourth game of the final, captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the fourth time in the last twelve seasons and will go on to the Memorial Cup tournament in Quebec City. Both the Quebec Remparts and Rimouski Oceanic have secured a spot in the tournament, and are battling for seeding now, since the Remparts are hosting.”
In the OHL, Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters are doing battle against the Oshawa Generals for a berth in the Memorial Cup, with the Generals leading the final series 3-1.
En route to winning the league title, the Rockets never truly faced any danger. In the first round, they swept the Tri-City Americans, defeated the Victoria Royals in five games in the second round and were taken to six games by the Portland Winterhawks. The sweep of Brandon was the third time in the past decade that the final ended in four games and is the fifth loss in the final for the Wheat Kings in their history.
For Leon Draisaitl, who was dealt by the Price Albert Raiders to the Rockets shortly after his return to the WHL from the World Junior Championship and a 37-game stint with the Edmonton Oilers, it was a season of ups and downs that culminated with being named the WHL playoff MVP. In the post-season, Draisaitl tied with Portland’s Nic Petan, leading all scorers with 10 goals and 28 points.
In the fourth and final game of the final, Draisaitl scored the game-winning goal 1:10 into the third period while the Rockets were shorthanded. Nineteen seconds after Draisaitl’s goal, Rourke Chartier added another shorthanded tally to give the Rockets some cushion. Draisaitl would add an assist on a late third period goal to give Kelowna a commanding 3-0 lead — one they would not relinquish.
There was a lot of uncertainty about whether or not Draisaitl would return to junior earlier in the year, but the move to pick him up by Kelowna GM Bruce Hamilton was a brilliant one.
The Rockets were ranked fourth in the CHL following the regular season and with the way they’ve been playing of late should be an early Memorial Cup favorite.
Kelowna has won only one Memorial Cup in franchise history. The victory came when the Rockets hosted the tournament in 2004. Although they had won the WHL the year prior, Kelowna only earned their berth into the 2004 tournament by being the host city. They have never won the Memorial Cup in a season which they’ve won the WHL.