Five Takeaways from Acadie-Bathurst’s overtime triumph
By Robert Murray/WHL
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan claimed their first-ever Mastercard Memorial Cup victory on Saturday, defeating the WHL champion Swift Current Broncos in a 4-3 overtime decision. Here’s a look at five takeaways from Saturday’s clash of champions in Regina.
1. There were definitely some tense moments, but St. Louis Blues prospect Evan Fitzpatrick kept the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the game, finishing with with 24 saves to out-duel Edmonton Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner. The last goaltending prospect of the Blues to appear at the Mastercard Memorial Cup was Jordan Binnington, who posted a 1.42 goals-against-average and a .951 save percentage with the Owen Sound Attack at the 2011 edition of the tournament.
Winning the tournament would be a historical feat in itself, but it’d also make Fitzpatrick the first Blues draft pick to win the tournament since Ed Staniowski did so with the Regina Pats back in 1974, though Staniowski obviously wasn’t drafted by the Blues until 1975. Even Pats fans may be willing to cheer on that accomplishment if the Titan emerge victorious.
2. Giorgio Estephan of the Swift Current Broncos opened his experience at the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup with a pair of goals, helping to give the Broncos their first lead of the tournament late in the first and then giving them the lead late in the second. The last WHL player to open their Mastercard Memorial Cup experience with a multi-goal performance was former Saskatoon Blades forward Josh Nicholls, who scored twice in his team’s 3-2 loss to the London Knights at the 2013 edition of the tournament.
Not to put pressure on Estephan, but Pat Falloon is the lone WHL to hold a share of the Mastercard Memorial Cup record for most goals in a single series with eight, tying him with Dale Hawerchuk and Luc Robitaille. As an effective offensive option for the Broncos in the 2018 WHL Playoffs and an injury casting uncertainty on Tyler Steenbergen’s status for the rest of the tournament, this is certainly an attainable record for the overage forward from Edmonton, Alta.
3. Fairly, the eyes of most scouts may have been directed to defenceman Noah Dobson of the Titan, ranked fifth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in their final rankings. However, it was another draft-eligible player in forward Samuel Asselin who made the bigger impact when it came to the scoresheet. His two goals helped provide the early fuel for the Titan before their comeback in the third period and overtime.
4. Including the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, the Western Hockey League is now 9-7 in the past 10 tournaments against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Those 16 games have involved six-one goal games, with the most recent three won by the QMJHL (4-3 for Acadie-Bathurst over Swift Current in 2018, 4-3 for Quebec over Kelowna in 2015, and 4-3 for Val-d’Or over Edmonton in 2014). Interestingly enough, in the first two of those cases, the defeated WHL team went on to appear in the championship game.
In the three one-goal victories for the WHL over the QMJHL (5-4 for Calgary over Moncton in 2010, 5-4 for Kootenay over Saint John in 2011, and 4-3 for Edmonton over Shawinigan in 2012), two of the three losing QMJHL teams went on to make it to the championship final.
5. As each team has officially now played one game, it gives us a chance to look at the possibility of some records falling while others remain etched in history. One that appears will stand the test of time for another year is the record for most points in a single series, set by Kitchener’s Jeff Larmer in 1982 and Hull’s Guy Rouleau in 1986.
Two players, Swift Current’s Estephan and Acadie-Bathurst’s Jeffrey Truchon-Viel lead the charts with three points each through a single game and could stand to challenge the record if their team were to play the maximum possible amount of games, earning one of them at most four more appearances.