From the Stands
By Paul Osborne
The Memorial Cup is right there!
They can see it, they can smell and they can win it.
The Guelph Storm assured themselves a spot in the final on Monday with convincing wins over the Edmonton Oil Kings (5-2) and the Val-D’or Foreurs (6-3).
Then on Wednesday, on a game they didn’t even need to win, they beat host London 7-2.
Guelph has been the cream of the tournament so far using their speed and relentless pressure to cause several turnovers and create many three-on-two and two-on-one opportunities.
Many in Canada are seeing for the first time what Storm fans have witnessed all season long.
The key now will be not falling in love with their dispy-doodles and continue to skate and crash the net looking for second and third chances.
“We like to play an up-tempo game and keep the puck moving and if we can get three, four or five chances on one play it is much better for us and that much harder on (the goaltender)” said Guelph coach Scott Walker, ahead of the team’s third and final round robin game Wednesday.
“(When we play well) we chip and chase and use our speed and play a north-south game, but when we start going east and west and using drop passes and shooting the puck over the net, lots of little things, and I know they don’t seem like much but when they creep into our game we begin chasing the game instead of playing our game.”
And that in a nutshell has been the key to Guelph’s success all season.
I can remember in December writing that Guelph needed to find their swagger.
Well they did shortly after that and then they began to hone their game.
Against weaker teams they were good enough to wheel and deal and make all the pretty passes and get away with it.
And then they took the next step and learned how to play defense . . . as a mature team they were ready to accept the hard work needed to shutdown the better clubs they faced.
They are the best team in this tournament but now they have to be the best team on Sunday.
They won’t know their opponent until late Friday night but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. And I’m not being disrespectful to any other club, but the fact is, if Guelph plays its game, they will beat whoever they are matched up again.
Everyone at this Memorial Cup knows it – this is a once-in-a-generation team.
“They are a great mature bunch and they know what they are doing,” said Walker, referring to the team’s reaction after Val-D’or scored two quick goals to make it 4-2 in their game Monday.
“It’s a good team and you can see they care (about each other). They understand the temperature of the game, the bench, and when the momentum slides they can bring it back.”
They will sit in that dressing room Sunday afternoon in the rink of one of their most hated rivals and look around and know they have one more goal to accomplish.
They will know that the young men in the surrounding stalls will fight to the death for each other and they will give every ounce of sweat they have in their bodies to try and get it done.
This is a close, mature group that thinks like men and they have never taken their eyes off the prize.
This is a team that has what it takes to deliver Guelph its first Memorial Cup championship in 28 years and just third overall for our fair city.
I truly believe that Guelph will be celebrating this Sunday.
• • •
Puck drop: It was announced on Tuesday that the start time of Sunday’s Memorial Cup championship game will be 4 p.m.
This Friday (7 p.m.), Edmonton faces Val-d’Or with the winner taking on Guelph for the Cup Sunday.
The game can be viewed live on Sportsnet (channel 22).