LONDON, Ont. — The tireless Edmonton Oil Kings upset the Guelph Storm 6-3 to win the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup on Sunday.
Henrik Samuelsson led the Western Hockey League champions with two goals, including an empty-net goal, and three assists in the final.
Edgars Kulda had a goal and two assists and Edmonton also got goals from Cody Corbett, Tyler Robertson and Mitch Moroz. Goaltender Tristan Jarry made 32 saves for the win.
Robby Fabbri, Stephen Pierog and Zach Mitchell replied for the Ontario Hockey League’s Storm, whose only loss of the tournament was the final. Guelph goaltender Justin Nichols stopped 40 shots in the loss.
Leafs prospect Matt Finn ended his junior career with a minus 3 rating in the final. Finn finished the tournament with four assists and a plus 5 rating.
Edmonton’s run to the Cup was a marathon in many ways. Two weeks before winning the trophy Sunday, they blew a three-goal lead at home in Game 6 of their WHL championship series.
The Oil Kings had to travel to Portland, Ore., the following day to win Game 7 less than 24 hours later.
Their triple overtime semifinal win over the Val-d’Or Foreurs on Friday was the longest game in tournament history at 102 minutes 42 seconds.
Add in a double overtime loss to the Foreurs in the preliminary round and the Oil Kings had played the equivalent of two more games in the tournament than Guelph heading into Sunday’s game.
Coached by Derek Laxdal for the last four seasons, the Oil Kings retained eight players from the team that lost in a Memorial Cup tiebreaker to host Shawinigan two years ago.
An emotional touchstone for those veterans this season was the death of former teammate Kristian Pelss, who helped them win a WHL title in 2012. The 20-year-old Latvian died last year after diving into a river in Riga.
The Oil Kings had "Play for Pelss" on a patch stitched into their jerseys and wore stickers on their helmets with his initials, number and a Latvian flag.
Guelph took the most efficient route to the final and were thus the more rested team. They outscored their opponents by a combined 18-7 to go unbeaten through three preliminary-round games and earn the bye to the championship game.
The Oil Kings went 1-2 in the round robin, including a 5-2 loss to the Storm in their first game of the tournament.
Edmonton trailed 2-1 after the opening period, but went to their seemingly bottomless reserves to score three unanswered goals in the second period.
Guelph pulled within a goal at 3:23 of the third when Mitchell swatted in Kerby Rychel’s pass from the behind the goal-line.
But Edmonton restored the two-goal lead at the five-minute mark on Samuelsson’s give-and-go with Kulda.
Kulda dished to Moroz after gaining Guelph’s blue-line and Edmonton Oilers prospect Nichols high glove side at 14:19 of the second. Kulda scored on a power play at 6:06 with a wrist shot from close range that beat Nichols glove side.
When Cole Benson won the faceoff in Guelph’s zone, Robertson took three strides into the high slot and beat Nichols with a wrist shot at 1:58.
Jarry stopped Pius Suter on a breakaway, but a trailing Pierog put the rebound over the Oil Kings goalie at 16:36 to give Guelph a 2-1 lead after the opening period.
Edmonton’s unpromising start Sunday included giving up a goal one minute into the game and spending four of the first five minutes short-handed.
But the Oil Kings made the most of their two-man advantage midway through the period. Cody Corbett scored on a low slapshot from the blue-line at 9:38 to tie the game.
When Oil Kings defenceman Dysin Mayo turned the puck over at their blue-line, Fabbri finished a three-way passing play with Rychel and Mitchell at the one-minute mark.
A previous version of the Edmonton Oil Kings won Memorial Cups in 1966 and 1963 before relocating to Portland. This was the first Memorial Cup in the current franchise’s short seven-year history.
Edmonton played a strong two-way game using their size and toughness to both create the space to score goals and make the opposition pay a physical price for the puck.
Led by captain Griffin Reinhart, a New York Islanders prospect, they were a punishing team in their own end and were backstopped by the reliable Jarry.
The WHL ended a three-year run of QMJHL teams claiming the Cup. The Oil Kings were also the first WHL team to claim it since the Spokane Chiefs in 2008.
WHL teams have won the most Cups since the tournament went to a round-robin format in 1972 with 19. The OHL has won 14 and the QMJHL 10.
The Memorial Cup has been given to Canada’s junior hockey champions since 1919 in memory of those who died in the First World War.
Sixty teams in the Western, Ontario and Quebec major junior leagues begin play every September. The three league champions join a host team in the annual tournament to determine the Canadian Hockey League champions.
The 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup will be held in Quebec City.