Sunday, 24 August 2008
Originally published in Prospects Hockey in 2008
By Lucas Aykroyd
Seven players have scored sudden-death Memorial Cup-winning goals, and it’s been their greatest hockey feat.
The only thing sweeter than winning a championship is doing it in overtime. Who can forget the image of Bobby Orr soaring through the air after scoring the OT winner for his Boston Bruins in the 1970 Stanley Cup final versus St. Louis? This year, Team Canada supporters exulted when Matt Halischuk of the Kitchener Rangers went to the net and banged home a rebound early in the extra frame to give his country a 3-2 victory over Sweden and a fourth consecutive World Junior title.
The Memorial Cup has its own longstanding tradition of overtime overachievers. But in the early 20th century, it wasn’t a first-goal-wins format. In 1927, Harold “Shrimp” MacDougall tallied twice during a 10-minute OT session as the Owen Sound Greys defeated the Port Arthur West Ends 5-3 in Game Two of the finals. Then in 1934, Art Jackson potted the winner during a 20-minute OT as the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors beat the Edmonton Athletic Club Roamers 6-4, also in Game Two.
After that, it would take 45 years before anyone scored a sudden-death goal to secure Canadian junior hockey supremacy. And that’s where our overview kicks off.
1979: ATTWELL BRINGS PETES FIRST TITLE
The Peterborough Petes have sent more than 150 players to the NHL, more than any other CHL franchise. However, despite producing stars like Bob Gainey, Steve Yzerman, and Eric Staal, Peterborough still has just one Memorial Cup victory to cherish. That memory becomes more precious with each passing year, and it came courtesy of a big right winger named Bob Attwell.
In the 1979 final versus the Brandon Wheat Kings in Verdun, Quebec, the 19-year-old Spokane native scooped up a rebound from Larry Murphy’s point shot and put it over goalie Bart Hunter, just over two minutes into OT. It was sweet vindication for Petes head coach Gary Green, who’d led his club to the 1978 Memorial Cup final but lost to New Westminster. It was heartbreak for the Wheaties, who boasted mega-prospects like Brian Propp and Brad McCrimmon.
“I wouldn’t say I was a hero,” Attwell opined. “I was the one lucky enough to score the goal.” He later played 22 games for the NHL’s Colorado Rockies. He also suited up for three minor pro teams, and retired in 1990 after six seasons in Germany.
1980: SAVARD RULES FOR CORNWALL
Only four players have ever captured three Memorial Cups, and three of them–Darcy Tucker, Tyson Nash, and Ryan Huska–played for the Kamloops Blazers (1992, 1994, 1995). Remarkably, the other one won three straight, and did it with two clubs from different leagues. His name? Robert Savard.
A skillful puckhandling defenseman, Savard gave the QMJHL’s Cornwall Royals their first championship when he skated end-to-end and scored at 1:28 of OT, beating Peterborough Petes goalie Rick Laferriere five-hole. Fans of the Regina Pats, who hosted the championship, were glad to see the Petes lose, since then-Pats coach Bryan Murray had controversially alleged that Petes coach Mike Keenan had gotten his players to tank versus Cornwall in the round-robin to avoid meeting Regina in the final.
“This was the most important goal of my life,” Savard said. He was right.
After winning another Cup with Cornwall, Savard was dealt to the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers in 1982, and earned his third national title with a squad including Brian Bellows, Scott Stevens, and Al MacInnis. But afterwards, this overager vanished from the scene. Undrafted, the Azilda product never came closer to cracking the NHL than an invite to the Detroit Red Wings training camp.
1989: TISDALE TAKES BRONCOS FROM TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH
Nothing could truly make up for the pain that the people of Swift Current endured on December 30, 1986, when a tragic bus accident claimed the lives of four young Broncos: Chris Mantyka, Brent Ruff, Scott Kruger, and Trent Kresse. But in 1989, the small Saskatchewan town got something to celebrate when the Broncos won their first and only Memorial Cup.
In the final, they faced the host Saskatoon Blades in front of 9,078 fans. Earlier in the tournament, the Blades had snapped Swift Current’s 14-game winning streak, which encompassed the entire WHL playoffs. Would the high-powered Broncos offense, featuring five 100-point scorers, come through in the end? Tim Tisdale, a 20-year-old centre, provided the answer when he tipped home Darren Kruger’s point shot about three minutes into OT.
“We took satisfaction for our accomplishments, but we just wished those four guys could have been a part of it,” Tisdale told ESPN years later. As an Edmonton prospect, he toiled for three seasons with the AHL’s Cape Breton Oilers, and persevered in the minors until 1996. Tisdale also coached the Regina Pats between 1998 and 2000. Today, he serves the next generation of players as president of the Swift Current Minor Hockey Association.
1990: ARMSTRONG SHOWS MUSCLE FOR GENERALS
Bill Armstrong wasn’t even close to being the best-known player on the Oshawa Generals. That was Eric Lindros, already dubbed “The Next One” at age 17, who would finish the 1990 Memorial Cup with nine assists. But when the OHL champions added junior hockey’s ultimate prize to their trophy case, it was Armstrong doing the damage. At 2:05 of double overtime, the big 1970-born defenceman lofted a shot toward Kitchener Rangers goalie Mike Torchia that somehow deflected in.
Armstrong had only scored two goals that season, and had stints with Hamilton and Niagara Falls before winding up with the Generals. But he earned the respect of his teammates. In his autobiography, Fire and Ice, Lindros stated: “‘Army’ used to wear this black mouthguard, and he was the meanest-looking guy I’ve ever seen. He was crazy, but he’s the guy you want on your team.”
After spending most of the 1990’s in the AHL, Armstrong landed coaching jobs with the Providence Bruins and the ECHL’s Trenton Titans.
1998: RUSSELL DOES PORTLAND PROUD
Is winning faceoffs really that important? Ask any member of the Portland Winter Hawks who won the Memorial Cup 10 years ago in Spokane, Washington, and he’ll tell you: “Yes!” Their victory came after centre Todd Robinson beat the Guelph Storm’s Manny Malhotra on the draw in overtime. Kevin Haupt unleashed a point shot and right winger Bobby Russell did the rest for a 4-3 win at 6:21.
“I went to the net and spun off my guy and the rebound was right there,” Russell explained. “I put it right home.”
The win was emotional for Portland because star forward Marian Hossa had been injured late in the game after a knee-on-knee hit. Still, the Slovak sniper rejoined his teammates on crutches to celebrate the second championship in franchise history.
After a seven-year minor pro career, Russell has spent the last three seasons in Europe.
1999: ZULTEK BRINGS CUP BACK TO OTTAWA
Brian Kilrea, the legendary longtime coach of the Ottawa 67’s, remembers winning the 1999 Memorial Cup as if it was yesterday: “We were playing the Calgary Hitmen. Mark Bell was on the ice along with Justin Davis. They did a little cycling in the corner and threw the puck out front, and Matt Zultek just crashed in and scored the goal. For me, that was the biggest overtime goal ever.”
The 7-6 home-ice win also marked the end of a 15-year Memorial Cup drought for the 67’s, whose victorious 1984 team featured Adam Creighton and Gary Roberts. Meanwhile, Zultek, a bruising left wing, played through 2006-07, mostly in the ECHL.
2001: LYNCH TRIUMPHS FOR REBELS
In the final in Regina, it initially looked like forward Jeff Smith had scored his second OT winner of the tournament versus the Val-d’Or Foreurs at 13:16. But instead, the goal was ultimately awarded to defenceman Doug Lynch, who ripped the deciding shot. Brent Sutter’s team won its first national title.
Lynch, 25, played two NHL games with Edmonton in 2003-04. This year, he suited up in the Austrian League.
More Sudden-Death Madness
* In the longest game in Memorial Cup history, defenceman Brad Staubitz scored for Ottawa at 15:41 of double overtime to beat Kelowna 3-2 in 2005. Ottawa goalie Danny Battochio’s 62 saves were a tournament record.
* Future NHL star Felix Potvin made 52 saves for Chicoutimi in the 1991 semi-finals, but Drummondville won 2-1 when Chicoutimi blueliner Steve Gosselin batted the puck into his own net.
* Peterborough beat New Westminster in OT in round-robin play in 1978 with a wild rally. Tim Trimper scored with three seconds left to tie the game, and then Keith Crowder notched the 4-3 winner at 20 seconds of sudden-death.
* Overall, four games at the 1990 tournament required overtime.
* The Vancouver Giants gained momentum after a 4-3 OT win over Plymouth to open the 2007 tournament, taking the crown on home ice.