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LONG HELPS KELOWNA WIN WHL TITLE

by Russell Brooks / Arizona Coyotes
Coyotes prospect Colin Long is having a memorable season playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.


As captain of the team, Long, a center whom the Coyotes selected in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, recently led the Rockets to the WHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup, a prestigious four-team round-robin tournament that begins Friday.  The tournament includes the playoff champions from each of the three major Canadian junior leagues - Kelowna, Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League. The field also includes the host team, Rimouski (QMJHL).

Long notched 91 points for Kelowna in 68 regular-season games in 2008-09, and he added 16 points in 22 WHL playoff games.

Kelowna beat Calgary four games to two to capture the WHL title last week. After that series, Long, 19, spoke to phoenixcoyotes.com about winning the championship and his development this season.

Q:
How did it feel to win the Western Hockey League championship?

A: "It was awesome. The whole season was definitely a grind for me. Calgary was a really tough team, but we grouped together and got the goal in overtime on the power play."

Q: What was it like to win the WHL championship as the captain of the team?

2009 MEMORIAL CUP SCHEDULE
DATE/TIME TEAMS
May 15 - 4 p.m. Kelowna Rockets vs. Rimouski Oceanic
May 16  - 1:30 p.m. Drummondville Voltigeurs vs. Windsor Spitfires
May 17 - 1:30 p.m. Rimouski Oceanic vs. Windsor Spitfires
May 18 - 4 p.m. Drummondville Voltigeurs vs. Kelowna Rockets
May 19 - 4 p.m. Windsor Spitfires vs. Kelowna Rockets
May 20 - 4 p.m. Rimouski Oceanic vs. Drummondville Voltigeurs
May 21 - 4 p.m. Tiebreaker Game (if necessary)
May 22 - 4 p.m. Semi-final Game
May 24 - 1:30 p.m. Championship Game
ALL GAMES ARE LIVE ON THE NHL NETWORK
ALL TIMES ARE ARIZONA TIME
A: "It’s such a great honor with all these great guys on the team. We have great skill and a well-rounded group. Every position is filled very nicely. It’s an honor."

Q: Calgary came into the WHL finals without a loss in the playoffs. How did your team win the first three games before finishing the series off in six games?

A: "We already went though three really tough series with the Kamloops Blazers, Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants. We were a little fortunate to get through those grinds. Calgary hadn’t really been tested yet in the playoffs. We already had been playing rough-and-tough hockey for the last month. We snuck up on them a little bit."

Q: You won the first three games of the series, but it appeared Calgary had momentum with two straight victories. How important was winning Game 6 and not having to go back to Calgary for Game 7?

A: "In the last game, our backs were against the wall. They had a lot of momentum. They had scored six goals in the last two games. People were saying they are back and they were going to win four straight. I thought we outplayed them. We weren’t getting the bounces. We were lucky enough to get a power play and convert."

Q: In the first three rounds of the playoffs, you had 13 points in 16 games, but you were struggling a little in the finals. How did you not let that affect your play?

A: "I had been struggling a little bit point-wise, but all the coaches were happy and pleased with the way I have been competing. I was just doing anything I can to win and be responsible."

Q: What was it like raising the Ed Chynoweth Cup?

A: "It was awesome raising the trophy. You see it on TV, but the past three years we were on the outside looking in. You think that could be you one day. It was surreal to lift it."

Q: You just won the WHL title, but your season isn’t over. How is your team preparing to play for the Memorial Cup?

A: "Everyone’s excited. We celebrated for a couple days and know we are turning the page and getting focused for the Memorial Cup. We have never seen any of the teams before so there is extra preparation going into the Memorial Cup."

Q: What have you learned this season as captain of the Rockets?

A: "I have slowly learned how to win and that it's not all about the points and it's more important to be a good captain and set the right example on the ice."

Q: What kind of impact has Rockets Head Coach Ryan Huska had on your career and what was it like winning the title for him?

A: "It was special because it kind of feels like we've grown together. His first year was really my first year that I took off. He showed a lot of confidence in me. It kind of feels like we have grown together this past couple seasons. It’s real special to get to that point."



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