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Mitchell, Spitfires Mem Cup Champions

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
RIMOUSKI, Que. – The Windsor Spitfires won a Memorial Cup for themselves, their city and a teammate they lost suddenly last season.

The Spitfires scored on their first three shots of the game and then threw a defensive cover over the game to defeat the Kelowna Rockets 4-1 yesterday and claim their first major junior hockey championship.

Windsor went into the four-team tournament as the favourite after dominating the Ontario Hockey League all season.

But they dropped their first two games in Rimouski and had four straight must-win games to pull out the tournament win.

``We knew if anyone could do it, it was us," said team captain Harry Young. ``We have such a close group here.

``It was the first time this year we really faced adversity and we pulled through."

Adam Henrique, Dale Mitchell and Rob Kwiet scored in the first period, while projected first-round draft pick Ryan Ellis got one in the second for the Spitfires.

Rising star Taylor Hall, an early candidate to go first overall in the 2010 NHL draft, was named most valuable player of the tournament with two goals and six assists in six games.

Colin Long scored for Kelowna, which won the Memorial Cup in 2004.

The Spitfires were in only their second Memorial Cup – they lost the final in 1988 in Chicoutimi, Que., to the Medicine Hat Tigers – and will bring the trophy home to a city starved for good news while enduring a painful slump in the auto industry.

``With the atmosphere at home and all the people supporting us, it means everything for us to do this for them," added Young. ``Being a local kid, they've been talking about that '88 team for so many years and now they'll be talking about us.

The Spitfires also brought out the No. 18 jersey of Mickey Renaud, their former captain who died suddenly of an apparent heart problem during the 2007-08 season. The team keeps the jersey in the locker room so he is not forgotten.

When the final buzzer sounded at the Colisee de Rimouski, an assistant coach brought the jersey onto the ice for the celebration.

``We knew he was watching over us all tournament," said Young.

The win ended the Western Hockey League's hold over the Canadian junior hockey championship. Vancouver won in 2007 and Spokane followed in 2008. Windsor is the first OHL club to win since the London Knights in 2005.

``It's difficult when you give up goals early on," said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. ``I thought we did a good job of making sure we didn't quit or lose that emotional control.''

The Spitfires jumped on the rusty Rockets, who hadn't played since Tuesday, for three goals in the opening 7:11. They scored on their first three shots against the previously-solid Mark Guggenberger, who was pulled in favour of Adam Brown.

Many among the 4,811 Colisee fans sporadically booed the Rockets, apparently on the premise that they didn't try hard enough to eliminate Windsor when they had a chance in their final round-robin game – a 2-1 Spitfires win over a Kelowna side that had already clinched a berth in the final.

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