After 10 months and more than 90 games, the Oshawa Generals and Kelowna Rockets will play the final game of the Canadian Hockey League season Sunday in the championship game of the 2015 Memorial Cup in Quebec City (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).
Kelowna, the champions of the Western Hockey League, advanced to the championship game by defeating the host Quebec Remparts 9-3 on Friday.
"We're going in to play a team that's great defensively, so to have that outburst is good," Kelowna captain Madison Bowey (Washington Capitals) said Friday, according to the Canadian Press. "We're not going to get the chances we had tonight against Oshawa. It's going to be a two-way, hard-nosed game and whoever works harder and wants it more will win."
The Generals had the stingiest defense in a decade to win the Ontario Hockey League title; they allowed 157 goals in 68 regular-season games, the fewest in the OHL since 2004-05. They have allowed eight goals in three wins to advance to the finals.
That includes one in a 2-1 defeat of Kelowna on May 26 during round-robin play.
"We had them getting 30-some chances against Quebec," Oshawa coach D.J. Smith said in a video on the Memorial Cup website Saturday. "You give them 30 chances you have no chance of beating them. We have to play defensively and when they make mistakes you have to pounce on them.
"I think they had 16 [chances] or something like that [in the earlier game]. That includes everything, power play. That's high for us. They had a 5-on-3 too. For us to win we'll probably have to hold them to 12."
Oshawa will try to slow Kelowna's top line of Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), Rourke Chartier (San Jose Sharks) and Nicholas Merkley, No. 23 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2015 NHL Draft.
Draisaitl leads the tournament with four goals and seven points. Merkley has three goals and five points. Chartier didn't have a point in the tournament until Friday, when he had two goals and two assists against Quebec.
"Their top line is probably the best line in the tournament," Smith said. "If we can keep them off the board we'll have a chance to win. They're going to do things to make it hard for us. Our guys are going to play as hard as we can and play the style we play."
Draisaitl said Kelowna will try to do the things that made it successful all season.
"We have to be ourselves," he said. "We can't change our game because of who they are or the way they play. We have to stick to our game plan, play our game and do it for 60 minutes. … We're where we want to be. We wanted to get a chance to win this cup and that's where we are and we've very happy about that."
Kelowna coach Dan Lambert said he was impressed by what he saw in the first game against Oshawa.
"They are a good team," he said. "They don't give you a lot of room, not much time and space. They're very good down low, all things we knew about them. But until you see how the matchup is, you get a sense of it. What did we learn? It's not going to be easy. We're going to have to bring our A game and we're going to need 20 guys to bring their A games. That's the only way we'll have a chance at having success."
Michael Dal Colle (New York Islanders) leads the Generals with five points in three games. Tobias Lindberg (Ottawa Senators) has three goals and Cole Cassels (Vancouver Canucks) has three assists and four points. Lindberg and Cassels scored in the first game against Kelowna.
"Certainly they're more of a defensive team than we are but we do have the ability to play defense," Lambert said. "You can't give them any gifts. You have to make them earn what they get and that wasn't always the case the last game we played them. Because they'll make you work for what you get. We have to make sure we're ready for that."
The hometown fans weren't happy with Kelowna winning Friday, and at one point in the second period the game was stopped because of fans throwing garbage on the ice.
Lambert hopes his connection to the area turns the fans to his side Sunday; he played parts of two seasons with the Quebec Nordiques.
"I hope they understand that I do speak French and this was a big part of my history and I hope they cheer for us," he said. "Maybe I should get my wife to send me my [Nordiques] jersey."
Smith also had a connection to the area, but his was a bit more of a stretch.
"I'm an ex-Avalanche," he said of his 34-game stint in 2002-03 with the Colorado Avalanche. "It's kind of like I'm a Nordique. … That should carry some weight."