There have been five players from Newfoundland and Labrador who’ve been part of teams that have won Memorial Cups, but that number could almost double this year if the Acadie-Bathurst Titan take the title as the champion team of the Canadian Hockey League and the major junior ranks.
The Titan claimed the 2017-2018 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League crown on Sunday, defeating the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 2-1 in Bathurst, N.B., with a lineup that included three Newfoundlanders.
Goaltender and St. John’s native Evan Fitzpatrick made 29 saves and was named the first star in the Titan’s Game 6 President Cup-clinching victory, while overage defenceman Adam Holwell, who is also from St. John’s, assisted on what would be the winning goal.
Centre Jordan Maher of Gander joins Holwell and Fitzpatrick as players who have appeared in all of Bathurst’s 20 games in these QMJHL playoffs.
Rookie defenceman Zach Bennett of Bay Roberts is also on the Titan roster, but has not played in the post-season.
The five players from this province who have already won Memorial Cups are Bob Dean of Botwood (in 1962 with the Ontario league’s Hamilton Red Wings), Kevin Neville of Corner Brook (1973, OHL’s Toronto Marlboros), Chad Penney of Labrador City (1993, OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), Jonathan Boone of Bell Island (1999, OHL’s Ottawa 67s) and Andrew Ryan (2013, QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads).
This year’s Memorial Cup begins in Regina on Friday and the Titan will be bringing a team that has succeeded because of timely scoring, good penalty-killing and a stout defence, backed up by Fitzpatrick, who had a playoff-leading 2.10 goals-against average along with two shutouts and a .925 save percentage.
“He’s been our backbone. He’s obviously been a huge acquisition for us,” Bathurst star defenceman Noah Dobson told the SaltWire Network about Fitzpatrick, who came to the Titan in a trade deadline deal in early January and went 17-3 for his new team.
Regular-season and playoffs combined, Fitzpatrick had a 33-7 record for Bathurst. Holwell had points in five of the six games against the Amada, finishing with a half-dozen points (1G, 5A) and a plus-five rating
Overall, Howell had 13 points (5G, 8A) and plus-eight rating in the playoffs, a strong post-season follow-up when he had 50 points (10G, 40A) and a plus-43raing, tied for third-best in the league. The 21-year-old has been a regular member of Bathurst’s starting lineup in the playoffs, is a power-play mainstay and has often been paired with Dobson, widely touted as the top Canadian prospect for next month’s National Hockey League Entry Draft.
The 20-year-old Maher is also in double digits in playoff scoring with 10 points (2G, 8A) after putting up 61 points, including 19 goals in the regular season.
Maher and Holwell have not been drafted, but Fitzpatrick was a second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues a couple of years ago, has already signed an entry-level deal and is set to turn pro in the fall.
Bennett has played sparingly since being picked up by Bathurst from Drummondville, but the 17-year-old has been practising with the team, will travel with the Titan to Regina and is in line to get a President Cup championship ring.
Besides the Titan, this year’s Memorial Cup will feature the Ontario Hockey League champion Hamilton Bulldogs, Western Hockey League champion Swift Current Broncos and host Regina Pats.
Bathurst plays its first game Saturday when it takes on Swift Current.