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Memorial Cup Three Stars: McTavish, Staios, Nadeau Shine in Semifinal

The Hamilton Bulldogs are off to the Memorial Cup final, and Tony Ferrari breaks down the top performers from a wild semifinal game on Monday.
Mason MacTavish

The 2022 Memorial Cup championship field is set with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Saint John Sea Dogs set to battle on Wednesday evening.

The Bulldogs did it thanks to a thrilling win over Shawinigan on Monday night, with Jan Mysak’s goal at the 10:08 mark of overtime sending the Bulldogs to the final.

Here's a look at the three stars from Monday:

First Star: C Mason McTavish

McTavish had a bit of a slow start to the Memorial Cup tournament, but the Anaheim Ducks prospect has been an absolute force in the last couple of games and will look to continue that in the final. McTavish is regularly a man amongst boys at the junior level, showcasing his strength and skill on just about every shift. After the Cataractes took a lead late in the first period, McTavish led the breakout through the neutral zone and played give-and-go over the offensive blueline with Ryan Winterton who dropped him a pass up the wall and McTavish made no mistake with a perfect pass to the net-front for a deflection from Artyom Grushnikov to tie the game.

Early in the second period, McTavish scored a goal after collecting the puck off of his own blocked shot. Shooting from the top of the circle, the puck never made it to the net after crashing into a crowd in front of the net. The puck bounced right back to McTavish who made the adjustment and beat the Shawinigan goaltender clean. McTavish continued to attack the net, bang and crash along the boards, and make life difficult for the opposing team. His ability to win a key faceoff or make a smart defensive play are big reasons that Hamilton acquired him midseason and his value is showing up when it counts.

Second Star: D Nathan Staios

A quietly masterful game from Staios who made a not-so-quiet massive play in overtime to help win the game for the Bulldogs. Staios is known for his offensive prowess and ability to create plays from the blueline but it isn’t often that the undersized blueliner is given credit for his defensive game. He was able to use all of his tools to their fullest extent in this game, skating to close gaps, utilizing his stick to break up play, and reading the Cataractes' offensive zone routes with efficiency. He wasn’t on the ice for any goals against and very few quality chances against in this game.

On the final shift of the game, the 2001-born blueliner evaded pressure and circled the zone, weaving and cutting through traffic before getting back to the top of the zone and fired a shot at the net with Jan Mysak in front, with no defender applying any legitimate pressure. Mysak deflects the puck by the netminder and received all of the credit but the play doesn’t happen if not for Staois’ ability to bob and weave through the offensive zone to create the play. Staios wasn’t ready for his junior hockey career to be over and now he gets one final game to show pro teams what he can do on the biggest stage available, the Memorial Cup final.

Third Star: LW Olivier Nadeau

It was a losing effort but Olivier Nadeau was able to show up as he has consistently shown up throughout the Memorial Cup tournament as the third amigo on the Bourque-Bourgault line. The line itself had yet another good line but it was Nadeau that led the charge in this game. He worked hard and consistently recovered the puck and got it to his high-skill teammates. Nadeau made an amazing pass to Mavrik Bourque late in the first period to get Shawinigan on the board to open the scoring, threading the needle through traffic from below the goal line to find his linemate attacking the net front.

Nadeau's goal tied the game at two partway through the second period, in what was a big moment for Shawinigan, ensuring that they stayed in the game. Nadeau was great all tournament long and while his linemates got much of the love, the Buffalo Sabres fourth-rounder was maybe the most consistent of the trio and did everything in his power to ensure that Shawinigan had every chance to stay in this game. 

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