If you got to watch the very entertaining Kitchener Ranger 6-5 overtime win over the Gatineau Olympiques then perhaps you got to see firsthand why we so totally enjoy the play of teams that play in the Canadian Hockey League. Of course we will not try to snow anyone by saying what the opening night of the Memorial Cup is typical of what will happen over the next 8 days but it was a nice start eh?
Where to begin as this game had everything, high scoring, drama, some suspect play, a fight, a heart stopping comeback and one heck of a highlight reel goal. Of course sadly there was even some blown calls by the officials but at the same time a couple of suspect calls that TV showed that the officials got right.
This one was in fact for the ages starting with the traditional opening ceremonies acknowledging the veterans who fought for Canada. If you did not know the Memorial Cup has always been about honoring Canada's veterans, wish the United States would honor their veterans in such a way.
We really feel sorry for the Belleville Bulls and Spokane Chiefs as they have to try to follow this game on Saturday afternoon. If they give the CHL fans even half as good a game as this one was then those fans will still have something to talk about.
This was a game where the stars did their part, the supposed role players did so and a couple of previously unknowns played key roles. The Game's First Star was the OHL's Player of the Year Justin Azevedo who showed why he earned that honor with a 4 point evening which included the overtime game winner.
Could someone tell us again why how so many could have overlooked Azevedo. When we watch him we see another Theo Fleury only this one does not have Fleury's baggage. Someone is going to take a chance on him and be rewarded with a solid player.
We also got to see a future Ranger nightmare as 2006 Flyer First Round Pick Claude Giroux's highlight reel set up for the goal that capped a 3 goal comeback to send the game into overtime. It was Giroux's only point of the game but it was a doozy.
Trailing 5-4, Giroux's Olympiques were on the attack when a shot was stopped then as the puck bounced onto Giroux's stick as everyone (including Kitchener goalie Josh Unice) went towards Giroux. Giroux sent a blind backhanded pass to teammate Alexandre Quesnel who had a wide open net and nobody guarding him.
You know you have made a play when you faked out 5 players and the TV cameras as Giroux did. Ranger fans we fear are going to be getting too many doses of Giroux in the future.
We love games like this when players you never heard of step up like the Pride of Eniwa, Japan Takuma Kawai who stepped up his game like he had never played before. How about Mikkel Boedker of Kitchener who just might have played his way into a Top 10 selection at the next Entry Draft?
Ah wait we got to give props to Jason Akeson who picks this game to score his first career goal for the Kitchner Rangers and Michael Stinziani of Gatineau who was the Game's second star with a goal and 2 assists.
Heck we can point out plays by just about everyone in this game as this game was very much just what hockey needed. It hopefully set the tone for what we believe is going to be a closely contested Memorial Cup.
We liked how about you?
As we mentioned Belleville will face Spokane Saturday afternoon in a game televised on the NHL Network in the US, on Rodgers in Canada and on the web starting at 4 PM /1 PM.
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