SHAWINIGAN, Que. -- Anton Zlobin came to Canada from his native Russia last year in order to improve the chances of realizing his dream of being drafted by an NHL team.
When that dream failed to become a reality last June, Zlobin took it as a challenge. And on Sunday night, he might very well have given himself a chance to have that dream come true next month.
Zlobin scored the overtime winner in a 2-1 victory for his Shawinigan Cataractes against London in the final of the MasterCard Memorial Cup, capping a tremendous tournament for a player who hopes he’s caught the attention of NHL scouts.
SHAWINIGAN, Que. -- It would be hard for people who are not from here to understand what junior hockey means to the people of Shawinigan, and just how long they have waited to see what they witnessed Sunday night.
But now, after 43 years, the people of Shawinigan can say they are the home of the MasterCard Memorial Cup champions.
Anton Zlobin's second goal of the game, at 17:51 of overtime, gave the host Shawinigan Cataractes a 2-1 win against the London Knights in the tournament final Sunday in front of a packed house of jubilant fans at Bionest Centre, who went home content that a 43-year itch finally was scratched.
Mikhail Grigorenko has seen his name slipping on the various draft rankings, he's heard the criticism lobbed in his direction and he's not the least bit surprised.
No, after a subpar performance in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs for the Quebec Remparts -- one where he produced just three points in a seven-game loss to the Halifax Mooseheads in the second round -- Grigorenko says the criticism and fading draft hype was to be expected.
"I was waiting for this," Grigorenko, 18, said after being named the Canadian Hockey League's BMO Rookie of the Year. "Before the (final) ratings I understood where I would be because during the season I had good games and I was first or second, but after I had a bad playoffs and I went down."
His coach in Quebec City, Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, was proud of the recognition given to Grigorenko's first season of hockey on North American soil.
SHAWINIGAN, Que. – Two of the top prospects heading into the 2012 NHL Draft earned two of the top honors Saturday at the Canadian Hockey League awards ceremony, but it was an undrafted free agent signing by the Phoenix Coyotes who came away with the biggest award of all.
Brendan Shinnimin of the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans, the top scorer across the three major junior leagues, was named the CCM Player of the Year after a tremendous season where he scored 58 goals and 76 assists for 134 points in just 69 games.
It was a moment of great vindication for a 5-foot-10, 175-pound player deemed too small to be drafted by any of the 30 NHL clubs.
"I look at that as a motivator. I like people to tell me I can't do something because it makes me want to do it even more," said Shinnimin, 21. "Hard work and determination gets you a long way. Especially in today's game, you don't have to be a big, strong player. You can be a small guy as long as you have the tenacity and the compete level. That's something that I have and something I will take forward into my pro career."
The femur is the hardest bone to break in the human body.
Coda Gordon knows this all too well after snapping his femur in two in a bantam hockey game in 2008.
The way Gordon excelled in his rookie season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League this season, it’s hard to imagine that just four years ago, he had to re-learn how to walk, and skate, after his injury.
The Shawinigan Cataractes certainly didn't look like a team that had lost an emotional game 24 hours earlier.
Defenseman Morgan Ellis had a goal and two assists, and tournament scoring leader Michael Chaput added a pair of assists as the host Cataractes scored the game's first six goals en route to a 6-1 victory against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the tiebreaker game at the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup at Bionest Centre in Shawinigan, Que.
Yannick Veilleux, Anton Zlobin, Kirill Kabanov and Michael Bournival also scored and goalie Gabriel Girard made 29 saves for Shawinigan, which advances to Friday's semifinal game and a rematch with Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rival and defending Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs. The teams combined for more than 70 penalty minutes Wednesday night in a physical, hard-hitting affair won 4-1 by the Sea Dogs.
The London Knights acquired Greg McKegg from the Erie Otters in January to add to their offense for what the organization would be a long run through the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and possibly on to the Memorial Cup.
McKegg, a 2010 third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, lost that scoring touch in the postseason, but rediscovered it Tuesday at the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup, scoring his first goal in nearly six weeks as London defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-1 at Bionest Centre in Shawinigan, Que.
"I was glad to see him score," London coach Mark Hunter said. "He's been contributing in other ways. He's been good on faceoffs, good defensively, but it was nice to see him score. Hopefully he gets more."
There's little better in sports than a one-game, winner-take-all championship match, and that's what the United States Hockey League Clark Cup Final has come down to.
The Green Bay Gamblers and Waterloo Black Hawks will meet Wednesday in Green Bay, with the winners taking home the league championship.
The host Gamblers' ride to the championship has been a fairly smooth one. After finishing with a League-high 98 points, they beat Youngstown in four games in the best-of-five quarterfinals, and then swept Indiana in the semifinals.