Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hawks Past at Memorial Cup: A Mixed Bag

The Portland Winterhawks won the WHL with a 5-1 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings Sunday, taking the Final in 6 games. This is their 5th trip to the CHL's Memorial Cup in their 36th year in Portland. Let's take a look back at the other 4 trips to the premier event in Major Junior Hockey:

1) 1981-82: Lost due to tie-breaker after the double round robin round.
 WHL-Portland, OHL-Kitchener, QMJHL-Sherbrooke
Cup Winning Rangers Squad
-In their 6th season in Portland, the Hawks rode a team lead by Ken Yaremchuk, Brian Shaw, Gary Nylund and Randy Heath to the President's trophy(WHL Championship) after defeating the Regina Pats in the final 4 games to 1. In those days the host city, Hull, Quebec in this case, did not automatically qualify and it was a 3 team tournament. Portland made history as the first U.S. based team to qualify for the cup. They did not build on this history however, as they dropped their opening game to Kitchener 9-2, giving up a then Memorial Cup record fastest goal to start a game at 11 seconds to future NHL 1,000 point man Brian Bellows. The Hawks responded with a 6-5 win over Sherbrooke and then got revenge on Kitchener, dropping them 4-2. They were then doomed by a 7-3 loss to Sherbrooke in their final game. This was a back breaker because all 3 teams finished tied with 2-2 records. Portland failed to advance because of their poor goal differential. Kitchener beat Sherbrooke in the championship game 7-4 for their first championship. Hall of fame Defensemen Scott Stevens and Al Macinnis were also on the championship winning Rangers. Defenseman Nylund made the all tournament first team for the Hawks.

2) 1982-83: Won their first Memorial Cup.
WHL-Lethbridge, OHL-Oshawa, QMJHL-Verdun, Host-Portland
Cam Neely
-For the first time, 4 teams were involved in the Memorial Cup. Portland was chosen as the host before the season started and showed why drawing, a near Memorial Cup record 54,090 total fans to the tournament. Portland added rookie Cam Neely to the lineup and he joined Yaremchuk and Heath to lead the team in scoring. They were defeated in the WHL Championship by Lethbridge and Ron and Rich Sutter. In a weird WHL rule, at the time, Portland was able to trade for back to back WHL MVP Mike Vernon, which greatly helped shore up their Goaltending issues. As hosts, Portland was chosen as the first team outside of Canada. The Hawks opened their tournament with a 7-6 win over Verdun and then a 10-5 win over Oshawa. They were done in by Lethbridge 9-3 in their 3rd game, but advanced to the title game regardless even though they had the same record as Oshawa, because the tie-breaker had been changed to most goals scored this year. Oshawa won in the semi-final but was no match for Portland again, as the Hawks won 8-3, earning their first Championship. Alfie Turcotte was named the tournament MVP for the Hawks, Mike Vernon was named Goalie of the tournament and Heath and Yaremchuk were named to the tournament first team.

3) 1985-86: Lost in round robin.
WHL-Kamloops, OHL-Guelph, QMJHL-Hull, Host-Portland.
Jacques Martin
-New Westminster, B.C. was originally chosen as the host for this year, but was unable to host it as the "Expo '86," was being held at around the same time. So the CHL chose Portland as their backup plan as the previous one was such a success. Ray Podloski, Dave Archibald and Glen Wesley lead these Hawks as they lost to the eventual WHL champions: Kamloops Blazers in the Division Finals. Portland lost to Hull 7-5 in their opening game and beat Guelph 6-4 in their second. The Ron Shudra lead Kamloops Blazers proved to be Portland's achilles this season, as they first beat them 6-5 and then 8-1 in the tie-breaker game. The Jacques Martin coached and Gary Roberts lead Guelph Platers would eventually win over Luc Robataille and Hull in the title game 6-2, claiming their first cup. Bob Foglietta was named to the all tournament first team for the Hawks.

4) 1997-98: Won their second Memorial Cup.
WHL-Portland, OHL-Guelph, QMJHL-Val d'or, Host-Spokane.

Belecki Making Yet Another Save
-Portland won their first cup in 15 years, as they rode a balanced offensive attack lead by Todd Robinson, Brenden Morrow and Marian Hossa and a solid defense lead by Andrew Ference, Kevin Haupt and Goalie Brent Belecki. The Hawks won the Scotty Munro Trophy for best regular season record and were able to easily advance past the first 2 playoff rounds before being forced to 7 games by a resillient Spokane Chiefs squad. Spokane later hosted their first Cup and set an attendance record. The Hawks swept Brandon in the WHL Final and thus qualified for their 4th Cup. The Hawks went undefeated in the round robin format for the first time in team history: beating Guelph 6-2, Val d'or 7-4 and Spokane 4-2. They automatically advanced to the champoionship game where they awaited a very game Guelph Storm team. Portland overcame an injury to Marian Hossa to win in overtime on a Bobby Russell goal 4-3. Andrej Pokonicky was the Cup leader in scoring with 10 points in 4 games. He was also named to the all tournament first team with Hossa.

Portland has not qualified for a Memorial Cup since 1998, until this year that is. They have a long road in front of them, but are every bit the talented team that they need to be in order to win a short tournament where one loss may doom you.

An interesting note is that every time the Hawks have played in the current 4 team round robin with a host team, the host has been from the wHL, with this year's host being the Saskatoon

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