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KASSIAN, SPITFIRES CAPTURE MEMORIAL CUP

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Zack Kassian (Getty Images)
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Soft, reflective music wafted down from the rafters as the Windsor Spitfires gathered at centre ice for the rarest kind of team photo — posing with not one, but two fingers held aloft behind the MasterCard Memorial Cup.


A savvy veteran lineup exploded for four goals in the second period Sunday as the Spitfires romped over the desperately over-matched Brandon Wheat Kings 9-1 to become the eighth team in history to repeat as Canadian junior hockey champions.

Spitfires winger Taylor Hall became the first player to win the tournament MVP award in consecutive years, finishing with one goal and two assists to claim the overall scoring title. Forward Adam Henrique finished with two goals and an assist for Windsor, which was never really threatened at the tournament.

``It's just such an incredible feeling,'' Hall said. ``I'll have this feeling for a long time. For those last 10 minutes, I just kind of reminisced about my whole junior career.''

Windsor won the title for the first time last year, when it became the first franchise to lift the Memorial Cup after losing its first two games at the tournament. Brandon was making its fifth appearance at the event — and third in the championship final — and will now have to wait at least one more year for its first win.
 DID YOU KNOW?

Zack Kassian finished the 2009-10 season with 31 points (12+19) in 38 games. The forward also scored 16 points (7+9) in 19 playoff games.

The capacity crowd of 5,609 began to disperse early in the third period, having watched its team dissolve. Windsor came within two goals of tying the record for the most goals in a Memorial Cup game, just shy of the mark last reached when Regina pounded Cornwall 11-2 on May 8, 1980.

``We all came here for one goal, and that was to win the Memorial Cup,'' Spitfires forward Zack Kassian said. ``A couple of times, we got tested, but that shows the character of our team. We didn't stop. I think it made us better throughout the tournament.''

Windsor ended its historic season on a 12-game winning streak that began when the team was on the brink of elimination. The Spitfires lost the first three games of a best-of-seven OHL playoff series with the Kitchener Rangers last month, only to win the next four, roll through the Ontario final and on to Brandon.

They pounded the Wheat Kings on opening night, scoring five goals in the first period of a 9-3 blowout. Windsor went on to beat Calgary and Moncton to finish the round robin with a 3-0 record to book a direct berth into Sunday's final.

Brandon had the best of intentions in the final. The Wheat Kings burst from the dressing room full of energy, with defenceman Travis Hamonic hitting the post — and with all of his teammates hitting everything else that moved in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Windsor made them pay for the mistakes they made, though. Henrique gave the Spitfires a 1-0 lead six minutes in, firing a quick shot from close range that Brandon goaltender Jacob De Serres let slip through his legs.

Spitfires defenceman Cam Fowler made a great chip at the blue-line in the last minute before intermission to keep three teammates onside in the offensive zone. Eric Wellwood capped a brilliant passing play with his second goal of the tournament.

Hall increased the lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal early in the second, opening a rush that was interrupted briefly by Matt Calvert's power-play goal for Brandon. Greg Nemisz, Marc Cantin and Fowler all scored for the Spitfires in the second period, a frame in which they launched 27 shots at De Serres.

The Nemisz goal seemed to be the back-breaker. An official review was required to determine if he had jammed the puck into the short side. It was ruled that he had, and the building deflated.

``It's going to make us better,'' Wheat Kings captain Brayden Schenn said. ``It will leave a bitter taste in our mouths _ you don't like the feeling of losing _ but I think it will make us better in the long run.''

Henrique, Kassian and Dale Mitchell scored in the third to rub the salt a little deeper into the wound.

Only three Ontario-based teams had repeated as Canadian champions, and none in almost 30 years. The Cornwall Royals ('80-'81), Toronto Marlboros ('55-'56) and the Oshawa Generals ('39-'40) were the province's only dynastic standard-bearers before the Spitfires met their date with destiny Sunday.

``I couldn't be happier,'' Spitfires captain Harry Young said. ``I'm a kid from Windsor, and this is going to go down in Windsor history.''

The team will likely lose a handful of its key contributors before next season. Hall is expected to be among the first two selections at next month's NHL Draft, prompting Windsor coach Bob Boughner to admit last week that: ``I think he's gone.''

``We couldn't be happier to bring another championship home,'' Boughner said Sunday. ``The support we've gotten over the last four years is just amazing. I can't wait to celebrate with everybody in Windsor.''
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