It took the Edmonton Oil Kings long enough to get into the Memorial Cup final, but they'll be awaiting a stiff challenge from Guelph Storm with the Canadian Hockey League championship on the line.
Should the Oil Kings prevail, they'll be the first Western Hockey League team to win the Cup since the 2008 Spokane Chiefs.
Not only are the Oil Kings returning to the Memorial Cup final for the first time since 1971, according to The Canadian Press (via CBC Sports), but they also needed three overtimes to advance this year after Curtis Lazar earned the winning goal against Val-d'Or Foreurs in the semifinal. According to that Canadian Press report, it was the longest game in Memorial Cup history.
The Storm, meanwhile, expected to be here after being the top Ontario Hockey League team this season. But after the Oil Kings dramatic win, you can bet the Storm won't be assuming victory.
Here's a look at this year's event information:
|Sunday at 4 p.m. ET||Budweiser Gardens, London, Ontario||NHL Network; Sportsnet|
The Storm are a dangerous team and should be the favorites heading in. According to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com, Guelph has the top six scorers in the tournament—Tyler Bertuzzi (leads the tournament with five goals), Scott Kosmachuk, Kerby Rychel, Jason Dickinson, Brock McGinn and Nick Ebert.
Being confident, you have to follow through with it, you can't blow smoke. We're not going to let up on anyone. We're going to keep playing Guelph Storm hockey throughout the tournament. We have a great coaching staff, they're always lifting us up and giving us the tools to compete. We had a great compete level throughout the room tonight.
After a 108-point season and a 7-2 blowout of the London Knights on Wednesday, perhaps the Storm have earned their hubris. They've outscored their opponents 18-7 in three games in London, and that blitzkrieg very well could continue into the final.
But the Oil Kings are no pushovers, led by the history-making Lazar. Ed Klajman of NHL.com breaks down what he's meant to Edmonton this season:
The six-foot, 200-pound forward was among the top 10 scorers in the Western Hockey League this season with 41 goals. In 21 playoff games, he scored 10 goals and 22 points.
The goal against Val-d'Or gives him four points in four Memorial Cup games heading into the final on Sunday against the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. The other time he was on a big stage like this was the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden five months ago. In that tournament, he also averaged a point per game with four goals and three assists in seven games.
Beyond the scoring, Senator fans can also look forward to Lazar taking a lot of key faceoffs, killing penalties, landing big checks and shutting down opponents' key players, plus plenty of locker room leadership backed by personal accountability.
But both of these teams are rife with future NHL players, so it should be quite the spectacle. The big question will be whether or not Edmonton's defense and keeper Tristan Jarry can slow down the dangerous Storm attack.
Jarry stopped 46 shots in Edmonton's historic overtime win over Val-d'Or Foreurs, so he seems up to the task. But if his net is constantly under siege, he may not be able to brush aside the Storm's advances for long.
Which team wins?
This should be a good matchup, but the Storm simply haven't given anyone reason to doubt them as yet. They attack in waves, they've generally protected their own goal, and they have enough swagger for several teams.
There will be no historic goals for Lazar in this one. The Storm will win, 4-2.