2012 MASTERCARD MEMORIAL CUP PREVIEW

May 16, 2012 - 11:18 CST

Shawinigan, QC – The 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament kicks off on Friday, May 18th, in Shawinigan, QC.

The CHL’s Championship tournament, which wraps up with the Championship game on Sunday, May 27th, features four teams – the host Shawinigan Cataractes, the OHL Champion London Knights, the WHL Champion Edmonton Oil Kings and the QMJHL Champion and defending Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs – who will battle for the storied Memorial Cup trophy.

The tournament format sees each team play one another in a round-robin format. The team with the best record after the round-robin advances directly to the Championship game, while the second and third-placed teams play a semi-final game to determine the other tournament finalist. If there is a tie for third place after the round-robin, a tiebreaker game will be played to determine the second semi-finalist.

Here’s a look at the four teams who will be vying for the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup:

EDMONTON OIL KINGS (WHL Champions)
Head Coach: Derek Laxdal
General Manager: Bob Green

2011-12 Record: 50-15-3-4, 107pts, GF: 310 GA: 193

2011-12 Final CHL Ranking: 4

2012 Playoff Record: 16-4 GF: 74 GA: 43
-Defeated Kootenay Ice 4-0 in first round
-Defeated Brandon Wheat Kings 4-0 in second round
-Defeated Moose Jaw Warriors 4-1 in Eastern Conference Championship Series
-Defeated Portland Winterhawks 4-3 in WHL Championship Series

2012 Playoffs Top Scorers:
C – Curtis Lazar 20gp-8g-11a-19pts
C – Michael St. Croix 20gp-7g-12a-19pts
C – Tyler Maxwell 20gp-5g-11a-16pts
C – Henrik Samuelsson 17gp-4g-10a-14pts

The 2012 WHL Champions, the Edmonton Oil Kings are making their first appearance in the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament in the five-year modern history of the franchise. The original incarnation of the Oil Kings won Memorial Cups in 1963 and 1966. That franchise eventually relocated to Portland.

Up Front:: Balance is the key for the Oil Kings in generating offense. Not a single member of the Oil Kings averaged a point per game in the playoffs. Yet, the team boasted 11 players that put up at least 10 points, and eight players who tallied at least five goals. Michael St. Croix led the team with 105 points in the regular season and shared the scoring lead in the post-season with 19 points. However, the team got plenty of contributions from the likes of rookie Curtis Lazar, the team’s co-leader in post-season scoring, Tyler Maxwell, Jordan Peddle, Rhett Rachinski, Stephane Legault and Henrik Samuelsson. They will need all the offensive depth they can get versus the best teams in the CHL at the Memorial Cup.

On The Blue Line: The best defensive team in the WHL during the regular season, the Oil Kings continued to stifle the WHL’s top offenses throughout the post-season. Led by captain Mark Pysyk, Edmonton boasts size, great mobility and excellent puck movement from the back end. Pysyk and Keegan Lowe have handled several of the WHL’s top scoring threats through the playoffs, while rearguards like Griffin Reinhart, Martin Gernat, Cody Corbett and Ashton Sautner have combined for a +54 rating among the defense corps during the playoffs.

Goaltending: 19-year-old Laurent Brossoit posted a spectacular 16-4 record to go with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in 20 post-season starts, and was named the MVP of the WHL Championship series. A Calgary Flames prospect, Brossoit has proven to be a big-game player for the Oil Kings, showing he can make big saves at the right time. Brossoit’s performance will go a long way in determining how much success the Oil Kings have at the Memorial Cup tournament.


SHAWINIGAN CATARACTES (Host Team)
Head Coach: Eric Veilleux
General Manager: Martin Mondou

2011-12 Record: 45-16-3-4, 97pts, GF: 274 GA: 179

2011-12 Final CHL Ranking: 5

2012 Playoff Record: 7-4 GF: 47 GA: 28
-Defeated Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 4-0 in first round
-Lost to Chicoutimi 4-3 in the second round

2012 Playoffs Top Scorers:
RW – Kirill Kabanov 11gp-4g-9a-13pts
C – Michael Chaput 11gp-4g-8a-12pts
LW – Yannick Veillieux 11gp-5g-6a-11pts
D – Morgan Ellis 11gp-4g-7a-11pts

An original QMJHL franchise, the Shawinigan Catarates come into the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup as the host team. The Cataractes are making their second appearance in the Memorial Cup tournament, having lost to the Prince Albert Raiders in the 1985 Memorial Cup final. The Cataractes also have not played in a month after being eliminated in the second round of the 2012 QMJHL playoffs.

Up Front:: The Cataractes boast a balanced, deep group of forwards who helped the team to the QMJHL’s fourth-best offensive output during the regular season and average over four goals per game in their short playoff run. Highly skilled Russian Kirill Kabanov, a New York Islanders prospect, paced the Cataractes in post-season scoring while another five players had at least 10 playoff points. Shawinigan product and Canadian World Junior veteran Michael Bournival, a Montreal Canadiens’ prospect will need to bring his tireless work ethic, while veterans Yannick Veilleux, Anton Zlobin and Michael Chaput are serious offensive threats as well. Expect plenty of offensive contributions from defensemen Brandon Gormley and Morgan Ellis as well.

On The Blue Line: The best defensive team in the QMJHL during the regular season, the Cataractes allowed just 179 goals during the season and owned the third-best penalty killing unit. Offensive rearguards Morgan Ellis, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, and Brandon Gormley, a Florida Panthers prospect, combined for nine goals in the playoffs. Both can provide excellent two-way play and leadership. Through they lost in a tough seven-game series to Chicoutimi in the second round, the Cataractes’ defense corps posted a solid +36 rating through 11 post-season games.

Goaltending: After splitting goaltending duties during the regular season, 17-year-old Alex Dubeau and 20-year-old Gabriel Girard both saw action in the 2012 QMJHL playoffs as well for the Cataractes. Dubeau posted the best numbers of any goaltender in the QMJHL during the playoffs with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in seven games. Though not ranked in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings, Dubeau has the ability to steal games for the Cataractes. Veteran Girard posted a 4-0 record in the post-season, and gives the Cataractes another solid option between the pipes.


LONDON KNIGHTS (OHL Champions)
Head Coach / General Manager: Mark Hunter

2011-12 Record: 49-18-0-1, 99pts, GF: 277 GA: 178

2011-12 Final CHL Ranking: 3

2012 Playoff Record: 16-3 GF: 72 GA: 45
-Defeated Windsor Spitfires 4-0 in first round
-Defeated Saginaw Spirit 4-2 in second round
-Defeated Kitchener Rangers 4-0 in Western Conference Championship series
-Defeated Niagara IceDogs 4-1 in OHL Championship series

2012 Playoffs Top Scorers:
RW – Seth Griffith 19gp-10g-13a-23pts
D – Olli Maatta 19gp-6g-17a-23pts
C – Vladislav Namestnikov 19gp-4g-14a-18pts
C – Austin Watson 19gp-10g-7a-17pts

The London Knights won the OHL Championship and are back in the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament for the first time since 2005, when they won the Memorial Cup on home ice as the host team. Though they may be a younger group, the Knights showed great consistency and commitment to the cause throughout the season.

Up Front:: The Knights are a deep group up front, and play a very disciplined and structured system. The Knights boast star power in the form of Vladislav Namestnikov, Gregg McKegg, and Austin Watson, whom are all NHL prospects, and undrafted Seth Griffith, who is one of the team’s top all-around players. A key cog on the penalty kill for the Knights, Griffith led all forwards on the team in playoff scoring. The team also gets plenty of contributions from youngsters like Max Domi and Ryan Rupert, who helped the Knights to the OHL’s third-best offense during the regular season.

On The Blue Line: The Knights’ defense was the stingiest in the OHL during the regular season, giving up a League-low 178 goals. Led by draft-eligible rearguard Olli Maatta and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect and Canadian World Junior defenseman Scott Harrington, the Knights are as defensively responsible and tight as any team in the tournament. Maatta, a native of Finland, also brings considerable offense to the table, having co-led the Knights in playoff scoring with 23 points. Jared Tinordi, a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, is also a key player in the Knights’ defensive scheme, playing a tough, physical defensive game.

Goaltending: 19-year-old veteran netminder Michael Houser has been outstanding all season for the Knights, winning 46 of 52 regular-season appearances while earning OHL Goaltender of the Year and Player of the Year. The 19-year-old was just as good during the playoffs, posting a 2.25 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage in 19 games. Houser’s strong goaltending is a major reason the Knights posted the best defensive record in the OHL.


SAINT JOHN SEA DOGS (QMJHL Champions)
Head Coach: Gerard Gallant
Director of Hockey Operations: Mike Kelly

2011-12 Record: 50-15-0-3, 107pts, GF: 298 GA: 180

2011-12 Final CHL Ranking: 1

2012 Playoff Record: 16-1 GF: 103 GA: 39
-Defeated Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4-0 in first round
-Defeated Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4-0 in second round
-Defeated Chicoutimi Sangueneens 4-1 in Semi-Final series
-Defeated Rimouski Oceanic 4-0 in QMJHL Championship series

2012 Playoffs Top Scorers:
RW – Stanislav Galiev 17gp-16g-18a-34pts
RW – Charlie Coyle 17gp-15g-19a-34pts
C – Zack Phillips 17gp-9g-23a-32pts
RW – Tomas Jurco 16gp-13g-16a-29pts

The Saint John Sea Dogs come into the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup as back-to-back QMJHL champions and defending Memorial Cup champions. The Sea Dogs arguably boast an even stronger squad than the one they had last year. Once again, the Sea Dogs enter the MasterCard Memorial Cup as the CHL’s top-ranked team.

Up Front:: The Sea Dogs boast a lethal offense that piled up a whopping 103 goals in just 17 playoff games. Last year’s Memorial Cup stars Stanislav Galiev, Tomas Jurco, Zack Phillips and 2011 Memorial Cup MVP Jonathan Huberdeau are back and as productive as ever. All four are among six Sea Dogs who averaged well over a point per game in the playoffs. Add in former Boston University star Charlie Coyle, who shared the team scoring lead in the playoffs, and you have a dynamic and powerful attack that has been near impossible to slow down in the QMJHL. The Sea Dogs also boasted the QMJHL’s top power play in the post-season. With a talented group of top NHL prospects, the Sea Dogs shouldn’t have a problem scoring goals in the tournament.

On The Blue Line: The Sea Dogs were equally impressive on the defensive side of the game during the post-season as they were offensively. The team allowed just 39 goals in 17 games, and boasted the second-best penalty killing success rate in the post-season. Montreal Canadiens prospect and Canadian World Junior star Nathan Beaulieu heads up a defense corps that combined for an astounding +101 rating in the playoffs. Beaulieu, Charles-Olivier Roussel and Kevin Gagne also combined for nine goals and 45 points in 17 post-season games.

Goaltending: 20-year-old Mathieu Corbeil is the main man in the Sea Dogs’ net after backing up former WHL netminder Jacob DeSerres last year. The 6’ 6”, netminder posted a 2.18 goals-against average and a solid .917 save percentage during the QMJHL playoffs, proving he can step up his play when the games mean more. Corbeil got into one game in last year’s MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament, which gives him a slight advantage in the experience dept.


2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup Schedule:
Round Robin
Game 1 – Edmonton vs Shawinigan; Friday, May 18; 7:00pm
Game 2 – Saint John vs London; Saturday, May 19; 7:00pm
Game 3 – Shawinigan vs London; Sunday, May 20; 7:00pm
Game 4 – Saint John vs Edmonton; Monday, May 21; 7:00pm
Game 5 – London vs Edmonton; Tuesday, May 22; 7:00pm
Game 6 – Shawinigan vs Saint John; Wednesday, May 23; 7:00pm

Tie-Breaker (If Necessary); Thursday, May 24; 7:00pm

Semi-Final; Friday, May 25; 7:00pm

Memorial Cup Championship Game; Sunday, May 27; 7:00pm

The 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup is proudly supported by MasterCard, title sponsor of this event for 14 straight years.  Associate sponsors include Bank of Montreal, Subway, CCM, and broadcast partners Sportsnet and TVA Sports.   

For more information about the event please visit www.mastercardmemorialcup.ca.