A win is a win is a win and all that, but the talk today at the Memorial Cup has to surround the Kitchener Rangers seeming inability to finish teams off.
The Rangers were clearly the better team last night—at times they appeared to be toying with the Olympiques. But, whenever it looked like they were about to blow the game wide open, somehow they would let Gatineau back in. When you couple last night with the recent OHL final where the Rangers blew a 3-0 lead before rebounding to win game 7, you have to wonder. Do the Rangers lack a killer instinct?
What you don’t have to wonder is whether Kitchener is talented. They enter the tournament as the clear favourite. For now, they remain. Despite letting Gatineau back in last night and Belleville back in the Ontario final, the Rangers did manage to emerge victorious in both occasions. In game 7 against the Bulls Kitchener played a near perfect game. Clearly, this is a spectacular junior hockey team.
One area of concern for the Rangers has to be goaltending. Josh Unice was, frankly, terrible last night. Troubling, then, is news that World Junior goaltender Steve Mason is probably not going to be made eligible to play for the Rangers in the tournament. The Record reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets would need to give their OK for Mason to lace ‘em up.
If Kitchener entered the M-Cup as favourites, Gatineau came in as the clear No. 4 choice. Despite fighting back to force the overtime, the Olympiques didn’t do much to demonstrate that they should be taken more seriously. Clearly outplayed through long stretches of the game, last night was more about Kitchener playing down to an opponent than it was Gatineau stepping up.
Today’s game shapes up to be quite interesting. Both Spokane, who looks to be the New Jersey Devils of the CHL, and Belleville will have reason to think that they should advance to the final. Today, then, should give a good indication of which of those teams has the inside track.
It’s a cliché, but every game at the Memorial Cup is massive. Get a win and you pretty much guarantee that you will play, at worse, in the tie-breaker game. Lose and the noose starts to get tighter.
The Record has a bit of a preview on today's game. Here too.
NOTES AND LINKS:
- You can read a couple more game reports from last night here and here.
- The Belleville Intell, seemingly, continues to report on the tournament by talking to people on the phone (God help this industry). Today, we have a Q&A with head coach George Burnett and former Bulls captain Ryan Ready talking about his experience at the 1999 Cup. Hopefully, the Intell will cough up the gas money to send a reporter to Kitchener for today because I might just jump off a bridge if it runs the CP gamer.
- I'd love to provide some Spokane perspective, but the local paper out there is stuck in 2002 mode and wants $7 for the privilege of reading it. I'll pass. I'm sure they are taking things one game at a time and not taking anyone lightly.
- Kitchener is a really swell town that's doing a fantastic--FANTASTIC--job of hosting the Memorial Cup. Or so says Al Coates anyway.