The most tested talented team tends to prevail in the long run, and the Windsor Spitfires will be just that heading to the MasterCard Memorial Cup next week in Brandon.
The post-game comments kept swinging around to Windsor's 1990-born veterans such as playoff MVP Adam Henrique, Eric Wellwood, Greg Nemisz, Adam Wallace and defenceman Mark Cundari after the Spitfires' 6-2 Game 4 win over the Barrie Colts that made them the Ontario Hockey League's first repeat champion since the 1992 Sault Ste. Greyhounds.
"Our core group is really important for us," Wellwood said in a post-game radio interview. "We've competitive, it doesn't matter what it is, if it's paper versus rock or video games, our '90 crew wants to win in everything and our '91 crew is the same."
The Spitfires, who won eight in a row after falling behind 3-0 to Kitchener in the Western Conference final, have a chemistry that 19 other OHL teams will be trying to distill. They have the overage stabilizers -- captain Harry Young and forward Scott Timmins -- and NHL stars in utero such as Taylor Hall, defenceman Cam Fowler and Nashville Predators first-rounder Ryan Ellis, whose three assists in the clincher gave him a 33-point post-season.
However, as much as a team can have top-end talent and coaches who chart a course, the veterans steer the ship. Windsor also made a trade-deadline tweak in January by adding forward Stephen Johnston and d-man Marc Cantin, both '90s, from Belleville.
"There's so much accountability in the room, and it starts with our 90 group," Spitfires coach Bob Boughner said. "It's great core group, great chemistry ... this was just been an unbelievable run, what we've gone through, going down 3-0 in the Kitchener series. I've never seen a group that wants it more, now we're going back for another run."
Henrique, fittingly enough, dropped the hammer with his 20th goal of the playoffs with 1:55 left in the second, opening a two-goal lead. That marker tied him with Kitchener's Jeff Skinner for the playoff goal scoring lead, marking the first time since 2002 that two OHL players have hit the 20-goal mark in the same post-season.
Timmins sealed a personal three-peat -- he was on the Kitchener Rangers' Memorial Cup finalist team in 2008 -- with a goal 9:27 into the third. He'll be the first player to play in the national championship three seasons in a row since several Kelowna Rockets, including current NHL star Shea Weber, did so from 2003-05.
"It's the perfect way to go out," Timmins said. "I've had a pretty lucky OHL career."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Windsor Spitfires
- Scott Timmins
- Ontario Hockey League