As a hockey fan in the USA, I've never had television coverage of the Memorial Cup before. Kudos to the NHL network for picking it up!
What a privelege it was to watch Spokane and Kitchener play this afternoon. Both teams showed high level of skill and defensive responsibility, but man was I impressed by the Spokane Chiefs. There's a reason this team went 16-5 in the WHL playoffs. The Rangers weren't completely outclassed, but this certainly seemed like their most formidable opponent yet.
Kitchener opened scoring on a Matt Halischuk (New Jersey Devils) shorthanded tally. They seemed to generate chances early, but any momentum they had was stunted when the Chiefs would get even on one Rangers goalie Josh Unice (Chicago Blackhawks) would love to have back. Justin Falk (Minnesota Wild) put the puck on net from the left point and caught a distracted Unice upstairs.
Spokane settled down and took away the middle of the ice quite effectively. Drayson Bowman (Carolina Hurricanes) then scored the go-ahead goal off a beautiful set up by Mitch Wahl and Chris Bruton.
Bowman's goal would prove to be enough. The combination of Spokane containment and great goaltending from Dustin Tokarski enabled the Chiefs to maintain a one-goal lead for the final 35 minutes of play. The Rangers had some good chances off the sticks of Mikkel Boedker and Justin Azevedo, but the Chiefs did a good job at limiting 2nd-chance opportunities.
Jared Cowen was a difference maker. This kid just turned 17 and is already 6'5, 215 - size, but also great speed and hockey sense. He's draft eligible next year and will probably be a lottery pick.
Tune into the NHL network tomorrow night to catch the Belleville Bulls play Claude Giroux and the Gatineau Olympiques. If the last three Memorial Cup games are any indication, this will be quite a tilt.