The Memorial Cup, a four-team round-robin tournament to determine the champion of the Canadian Hockey League, featured the winners of the Ontario Hockey League (Hamilton), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Acadie-Bathurst) and Western Hockey League (Swift Current), and host Regina of the WHL. The event was held at Brandt Center in Regina, Saskatchewan, and featured several NHL-drafted prospects and some eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.
In the championship game Sunday, Acadie-Bathurst defeated Regina 3-0.
Here are three things we learned from the championship:
1. Fabulous Fitzpatrick
Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick, a second-round pick (No. 59) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2016 NHL Draft, made 28 saves for his first shutout of the tournament to help Acadie-Bathurst win its first Memorial Cup championship.
Fitzpatrick (6-foot-3, 203 pounds), who entered the final with the lowest save percentage (.879) of any goalie in the tournament, is the first to record a shutout in the Memorial Cup final since Adam Dennis made 27 saves to help London (OHL) to a 4-0 win against Rimouski (QMJHL) on May 29, 2005. Fitzpatrick made 17 saves in the third period.
Acquired in a trade from Sherbrooke on Jan. 2, Fitzpatrick went 16-4 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 20 playoff games for Acadie-Bathurst, which won its second QMJHL championship since relocating to New Brunswick in 1998. He signed an entry-level contract with the Blues on March 26 and likely will play for San Antonio of the American Hockey League next season.
"It's just staying in the moment and staying focused, and when I get shots, I had to bear down, track them, and do my job," Fitzpatrick told Sportsnet. "I don't have words for this right now. It's something special and something I never would have imagined. I had a great team in front of me and an amazing defense. We had three deep lines, and our fourth line could have been a second or third on any other team."
2. Captain comes up big
Acadie-Bathurst captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel set up a big insurance goal late in the third period with a nice play.
After skating into the right face-off circle, Truchon-Viel put the puck between his legs to beat a defender before backhanding a pass to center Samuel Asselin in the slot for a redirection at 13:02 for a 2-0 lead. Truchon-Viel led Acadie-Bathurst with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in four tournament games, and Asselin finished with six points (five goals, one assist).
Defenseman Adam Holwell scored at 16:10 of the first period to give Acadie-Bathurst a 1-0 lead, and Ethan Crossman scored into an empty net at 19:30 of the third to make it 3-0.
The Memorial Cup championship win was the first for a QMJHL club since Halifax won in 2013. Acadie-Bathurst won three of four Memorial Cup tournament games despite going 1-for-13 on the power play. It outscored the opposition 17-12.
3. Paddock impresses
Regina goaltender Max Paddock, No. 22 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goaltenders for the 2018 NHL Draft, will not attend the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo this week, but he left a lasting impression on those NHL scouts in attendance by making 41 saves, 24 in the second period.
Paddock (6-1, 150), 17, who made 44 saves in a 4-2 win against Hamilton in the semifinal Friday, rebounded with two straight victories after being pulled in an 8-6 loss to Acadie-Bathurst on May 20 when he allowed six goals on 32 shots in the first and second periods.
The nephew of Regina coach John Paddock, he finished his rookie season 19-7-2 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 33 regular-season games.
Regina forward Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks), 20, was named Memorial Cup most valuable player after finishing with a tournament-best 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in five games.
2018 Memorial Cup scores
May 18: Regina 3, Hamilton 2
May 19: Acadie-Bathurst 4, Swift Current 3 (OT)
May 20: Acadie-Bathurst 8, Regina 6
May 21: Hamilton 2, Swift Current 1
May 22: Hamilton 3, Acadie-Bathurst 2
May 23: Regina 6, Swift Current 5
May 25 (Semifinal): Regina 4, Hamilton 2
May 27 (Championship): Acadie-Bathurst 3, Regina 0