Winning the Memorial Cup for the second straight season was twice as nice for Greg Nemisz.
The Calgary Flames prospect notched a goal and an assist on Sunday night as the Windsor Spitfires trounced the Brandon Wheat Kings 9-1 in the final of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup in front of 5,609 fans at Westman Place.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said the 6-foot-4, 200-pound forward, who finished the tournament with a goal and four helpers in four games. “This is what we set out to do all year. To do it tonight is pretty special.”
The Spitfires also won the Canadian Hockey League championship last year with a 4-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in Rimouski, Que. It’s the first time since the Kamloops Blazers won the Memorial Cup in 1994 and 1995 that a team has captured back-to-back titles.
“It’s not really fair to compare those teams,” Nemisz said shortly after posing for the traditional championship photo with his teammates. “We’re a great team, they’re a great team. It’s just great to win.”
In 51 games during the regular season for the Spitfires, Nemisz recorded 34 goals and 36 assists before suffering a nasty injury on Feb. 25 against the Plymouth Whalers when a skate blade cut his leg.
Calgary’s first round pick (25th overall) in the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft was subsequently forced to watch the end of the season and the beginning of Windsor’s playoff run from the press box.
“I couldn’t skate for a while,” he said. “To be off five weeks coming into playoffs, it’s tough.”
Nemisz returned to action in the second round of the post-season against the Whalers and helped lead the Spitfires to their second straight Ontario Hockey League title with a pair of goals and 10 helpers in 15 games.
“He’s been playing well,” said Windsor coach Bob Boughner, who played two seasons for the Flames in 2001-02 and ’02-03. “He’s a guy that means everything to our team. Greg’s performance was dominant tonight and he saved his best for last.”
Nemisz’s goal in Sunday’s final against the Wheat Kings made it 4-1 for Windsor and came just 40 seconds after Brandon’s lone goal of the contest.
“I don’t know what the refs or the goal judge were doing,” said Nemisz, whose marker was held up after video review. “It went in right away. It got called a goal so we’re happy about that.”
“It was a big goal,” noted Boughner. “That was a turning point. At that point, I thought we still had control of the game, but that goal might have tipped the tide there. I thought that was a major difference.”
Nemisz will now savour the championship with his teammates before taking a bit of a breather. His plan is to work hard in the off-season to prepare himself for training camp with the Flames and his ultimate goal is to show the Calgary brass that he has what it takes to make the jump to the professional ranks next season.
“Absolutely I want to turn pro,” said the native of Courtice, Ont. “I’m not going to kid myself, I’ve got a lot of work to do in the off-season to get stronger, bigger and faster, but I’m ready to do that. I’ll start thinking about that after we celebrate this win.”
Boughner predicted that Nemisz will parlay his performance with the Spitfires into a successful professional career.
“He’s Calgary’s first round pick and he’ll be playing at the pro level,” Boughner said. “He’s a big guy. He’s still growing into his body. He can be so effective when he’s playing the game right way. I think he’s going to have a long career.”
In turn, Nemisz commended his coach for guiding the Spitfires to back-to-back titles, which can only help prepare him for his future endeavours.
“To play and to learn how to win is something you can’t put a price on,” Nemisz concluded.