When Randy Cameron scored on the power play late in the first period for the Moncton Wildcats, it was not only the first power play goal the Windsor Spitfires had given up in 80+ shorthanded situations in the 2010 postseason, but it was also the first time the reigning Memorial Cup champions had trailed in the tournament.
Unfortunately for Moncton, the lead was short-lived, as defenseman Cam Fowler took a pass from Justin Shugg on the power play and blasted a slap shot past goaltender Shane Owen to tie the score at 1-1 with just 7.4 seconds remaining, reminding everyone in Westman Place precisely just how good a team the Spitfires are. Ellis had the other helper on Fowler's first Memorial Cup tally.
The Wildcats, who were 0-2 and needing a win to have a chance at another game, began the contest behind the eight-ball when it was announced that starting netminder Nicola Riopel would not play because of an "illness." Although Owen played well in the first frame, he simply hasn't played enough hockey since the playoffs began two months ago and would need an unreal performance to give his team a shot to win it.
The "Fantastic Fours " line of Taylor Hall (4)-Justin Shugg (44)-Adam Henrique (14) combined to put Windsor ahead 2-1 in the second period at around the five minute mark. Henrique gained the zone on the right side after Shugg chipped it up the ice to him and took a shot. The puck hit a Moncton player's skate however and found Hall cruising through the middle of the ice. Hall then one-touched the puck over to Shugg, going straight to the net to Hall's right and Shugg deftly redirected it past Owen for his second goal and fifth point of the tourney.
With the score 2-1, Windsor after 40 minutes, it looked as if the sun might be setting on Moncton's excellent season, but the Wildcats bounced back in the third.
Captain Scott Brannon's rocket over Windsor goalie Philipp Grubauer's shoulder less than three minutes in after matching penalties opened up some four-on-four action tied up the score. Cameron won the draw cleanly over to Brannon, who rifled a high shot into the net that Grubauer had no chance on.
Just 29 seconds later, Brandon Gormley showed why he's a top draft candidate when he wired a shot from the point over Grubauer's blocker to give Moncton a 3-2 lead. It was another clean faceoff win for Moncton, who had been trailing in the game in that department, but when the puck came back to Gormley, he stepped into the blast that had eyes and found its way through heavy traffic in front to give Gormley his first goal of the tourney, and Moncton's second tally while the teams skated four aside.
The lead didn't hold up, however. After a puck was played with a highstick in the Moncton zone, what would have been a clearing play was brought back in for a faceoff. In a recurring theme in the third period, Windsor won the draw and after some scrambly play around the Wildcats' net, '09 Nashville first-rounder Ryan Ellis let a shot go from the high slot that Owen kicked out in front of him. Hall, who was on the doorstep swiped at it and missed, but it skittered to Stephen Johnston, who banged it home for his first goal of the tourney and first playoff goal since the OHL opening series. Henrique got the other assist, just 1:46 after Gormley had established the lead.
The game ended in a tie, forcing overtime. There, Eric Wellwood, brother of Vancouver forward Kyle Wellwood, scored to give Windsor a perfect 3-0 record. They won't play again until Sunday-- in the Memorial Cup championship game.
Tonight, Brandon and Calgary will close out the round robin portion, and then will play each other again Friday night for the right to face the waiting Spitfires. Moncton is done, unable to overcome the losses of Nicolas Deschamps, who missed the tournament with an injury, and Riopel, who might have propelled the Wildcats to victory last night. That said, Owen played well enough to win, his team just couldn't get enough pucks past Grubauer, who made 38 stops in the victory.
The good news is-- if you're a casual draft fan and have watched these games, the top-end players have come as advertised. Hall leads the tournament in scoring with six points, Gormley looked very strong albeit in three losses. Fowler has showed off his superb offensive abilities, but still stuggles a bit with the defensive aspects of his game, namely his reads and playing the body when appropriate. Grubauer looks like he belongs in this group of goalies that is being touted as one of the stronger netminder classes in recent years, spearheaded by Jack Campbell, who will play in Windsor next year (the rich getting richer).