GLENDALE – Coyotes prospect Henrik Samuelsson punctuated his impressive junior hockey career by hoisting the Memorial Cup over his head on Sunday after he and his Edmonton teammates defeated Guelph, 6-3, in the prestigious tournament’s championship game in London, Ontario.
“It was surreal,” said Samuelsson, who notched five points in the game, including a key goal early in the third period. “I couldn’t care less if I had five points or zero points in that game as long as we won. Obviously it’s nice getting points, but it’s so much nicer to win a championship. It was the best day of my life.”
Samuelsson’s first goal came at 5:00 of the final period off a two-on-one rush and it restored his team’s two-goal lead just as Guelph had started to make a move.
“It was a big goal for our team,” said Samuelsson, who led all tournament players with eight points (four goals, four assists). “We took the momentum back at that point and they couldn’t seem to get it going again after that.”
Edmonton lost two of its first three games in this tournament – including a 5-2 defeat to Guelph in the opener - but Samuelsson, who learned to play hockey as a child in Scottsdale, said the Oil Kings never lost confidence.
“We lost that first game to Guelph and that was tough, but I think that game proved to us that we could hang with any team,” Samuelsson said. “They were the favorite to win it all and they beat us 5-2, but I felt it was a closer game than that and that we outworked them most of the game but just couldn’t score. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we took confidence from that game and from that point on we played with a little swagger and we started playing better and better. That game on Sunday against them was probably our best game of the year.”
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Edmonton reached the title game by beating Val-d’Or 4-3 in triple overtime on Friday. It was the longest game in tournament history at 102 minutes and 42 seconds.
“Our bodies were aching after that game but our coach gave us the day off on Saturday to recover,” Samuelsson said. “It was a big game (on Sunday) so we just found a way to rustle up some energy and gave it our all.”
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney attended the tournament and was impressed by Samuelsson, the team’s first-round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at pick No. 27.
“Henrik had a fantastic finish to his junior career,” Maloney said. “I thought he was outstanding in Edmonton’s semifinal game verse Val-d’or on Friday. Although he did not score, he played quick and dominated with the puck on his stick. And his five-point, first star performance in Sunday’s final game speaks for itself. We’re all very proud of the work Henrik put into his game this season and look forward to him beginning his professional career in the fall.”
Coyotes prospect Max Domi also played in the Memorial Cup for host London.
“He was the best player in the tournament by far,” Domi said of Samuelsson, his roommate at last summer’s Coyotes Prospect Development Camp. “He’s a pretty special guy and has an awesome personality off the ice, and he works hard every shift. He’s the kind of guy you really want on your team. I look forward to hopefully playing with him one day down the road.”
Samuelsson plans to celebrate with his teammates and their fans in Edmonton this week and then take a few weeks off before again attending the annual Coyotes Prospect Development Camp. In the meantime, he plans to watch his father, Ulf Samuelsson, and the New York Rangers compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and maybe even attend a game or two should the Rangers advance to the Final.
He’s also planning to reflect on what he and his teammates accomplished this season.
“It’s been an amazing experience playing for the Oil Kings and there is no better way for me to end my junior career than winning the Memorial Cup,” Samuelsson said. “It’s amazing.”