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Broken trophy doesn't mean broken dreams in Spokane

by Brad Holland

Spokane Chiefs goaltender Dustin Tokarski was named MVP of the 2008
Memorial Cup Tournament after their upset victory over Kitchner.
At the 2008 Memorial Cup, it was four consecutive wins for the Spokane Chiefs, three cheers for tournament MVP Dustin Tokarski, two hard-fought championships in 2008, and one heck of an embarrassing way to celebrate a phenomenal victory.

Luckily, it's the championship that matters, not the trophy itself.

With a 4-1 victory against the Kitchener Rangers, the Chiefs' second-such victory in less than a week against the heavily favored, host-team Rangers, Spokane, of the WHL, was crowned Memorial Cup champion.

Tokarski, who was mercurial for the Chiefs in their run-up to the WHL Championship -- posting a 1.38 GAA and a .944 save percentage in 21 starts -- was just as good in the CHL championship only days later, posting a 4-0 record, a 1.72 GAA and a .953 save percentage against the champions of the OHL and QMJHL and the OHL runner-up.

If, as Joe McGrath spouted in his locker room tired at the end of the iconic move 'Slap Shot' that, "They came to scout the Chiefs!" then Tokarski is looking very sharp for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

At the moment, he is looking like an extremely solid "buy-low" option at the No. 9 slot on the domestic goaltenders list from NHL Central Scouting.

Tokarski was especially good in the Cup-clinching game, in which he and his Chiefs were doubled-up by a 54-26 margin on the shot clock, including a wild third period in which he slammed the door and stopped all 25 – that's right, 25 – shots fired his way.

The only other Chief who had as interesting a game as Tokarski was captain Chris Bruton, who skated to a plus-3 rating in the game, managed two assists -- one on the game-winning goal -- earned the game's second star, and who was the first and last player to raise the Memorial Cup before it collapsed in his hands and fell to the ice in three pieces.

Despite breaking the Cup, the Spokane Chiefs were every bit champions of the 2008 Memorial Cup as they played to a perfect 4-0 record, and defeated the host team twice.

And hey, trophies can be fixed.

Around the WHL –
Two players were awarded trophies this week, at the Canadian Hockey League Awards ceremony, which was held at the Centre in the Square Amphitheatre in Kitchener. Defenseman Karl Alzner was awarded the Molson Canadian CHL Defenseman of the Year Award, while goaltender Chet Pickard was a warded the ADT CHL Goaltender of the Year. … Drayson Bowman, who scored the Memorial Cup-winning goal in 2008, finished off the tournament as the Chiefs' leading scorer. He scored six goals in only four games, and added two assists along the way.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

For the Gatineau Olympiques, their 0-3 record at the 2008 Memorial Cup may appear disappointing to the casual observer, but it did not accurately represent their tournament play.

In Game 1, against the host Rangers, the Olympiques battled back from defecits of 3-0 and 5-2 to eventually tie the game up at 5-5 and force overtime. Goaltender Ryan Mior was spectacular in the dying moments of the third period and in overtime, and it took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty for the Rangers to finally put one by the veteran netminder.

During their second game, the Olympiques rushed out to a 2-0 lead against Belleville, but were unable to hold the advantage and took a 3-3 tie into the locker room during the second intermission. The Bulls' experience paid off, though, with three straight goals in the third period and a final score of 6-3 that pushed the Olympiques to the brink.

In their final game, the Olympiques showed they were able to play in any sort of a game, as they went the distance with the eventual Memorial Cup champions in a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair that the Chiefs eventually took by a 3-1 margin.

For a young team, the experience was invaluable and no doubt it will be a force to contend with again next season.

Around the QMJHL – The QMJHL took home three trophies at the annual CHL Awards banquet, as Chris Morehouse of the Moncton Wildcats picked up the Home Hardware Humanitarian of the Year Award, Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll of Shawinigan was awarded the CHL's Hockey Sportsman of the Year, and Robert Slaney of Cape Breton took home the Subway Scholastic Player of the Year Award. … Michael Stinziani ended the 2008 Memorial Cup as the QMJHL's leading scorer, as the three-year veteran picked up two goals and five points in the three games. … Ryan Mior, goaltender for the Olympiques, did not finish his QMJHL career the way he may have liked, as he allowed 14 goals in three Memorial Cup games, but the veteran, who has played in more games (playoffs and regular season) than any other goaltender in QMJHL history, has more than enough to be proud of after a very successful season.

Ontario Hockey League

The season finished as it should for the OHL's regular-season and OHL postseason leading scorer; it ended with four goals, 11 points and a perch at the top of the mountain. But, his offensive prowess did not translate into a Memorial Cup title.

He and the rest of the Rangers came within three goals of completing a dream season, but it was not meant to be.

And if you'd ask him, Kitchener's Justin Azevedo would probably trade his 57 goals, 114 assists, and 171 points and his regular-season and playoff MVP awards for four more goals when they counted the most, in his final game of a highly successful 2007-08 season.

Despite the disappointing finale, Azevedo, and the Rangers have reason enough to hold their heads high this summer, and reason enough to be excited heading into 2008-09.

Around the OHL – It was truly a dream season for Azevedo, regardless of how his Memorial Cup turned out, and the veteran was honored again at the CHL banquet this past week with the CCM Player of the Year and the Boston Pizza Top Scorer Awards. Also picking up hardware for the OHL was Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting, who picked up NAPA Auto Parts Top Draft Prospect honors, Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires, awarded the Mosiak MasterCard Rookie of the Year, and Bob Boughner of the Windsor Spitfires, who earned the Go RVing Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award for 2008. … The line of Azevedo, Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk, which dominated the OHL Playoffs and much of the regular season was just as good as advertised in the Memorial Cup. They combined for 11 goals and 28 points in four games. … Belleville Bulls forwards Shawn Matthias, Cory Tanaka, and Adam Perry tied for the Bulls' lead in Memorial Cup scoring. Each had five points, while Matthias and Tanaka tied for the lead in goals with four apiece.

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