BRANDON, Man. — There’s a calm before the storm.
Both the Brandon Wheat Kings and Windsor Spitfires practiced on the morning of the MasterCard Memorial Cup final. The Spitfires saw the ice first and most of their players took part in drills, with the exception of Taylor Hall, Greg Nemisz, Dale Mitchell and Mark Cundari.
Watch the MasterCard Memorial Cup final beginning at 7 ET on Rogers Sportsnet.
Watch it live online here
As the players began filing off the ice, head coach Bob Boughner could be heard telling his platoon: "Let’s get off the ice. There’s nothing more we can do now."
That same business-like approach was evident when the Wheat Kings took the ice less than half an hour later. Like the Spitfires, the majority of Brandon’s roster saw the ice with a notable exception being defenceman Colby Robak.
Spitfires captain Harry Young met with the media following the skate. Windsor has not played since Tuesday after sweeping their way through the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Young compared the time off since their last round-robin game to the time off following a weekend of a regular season game.
"We’re not too worried about being rusty," he said. "We came into this tournament with a 10-day layoff and we came out with a bang in the first game. I think we’re going to be fine. If you can’t bring it for the championship game you’re never going to."
Many prognosticators predicted the Spitfires would be in this position after winning the national championship last year, when they were deemed a year ahead of schedule. As a result of that, many of the Windsor players will be playing in their final game in a Spitfires uniform in what head coach Bob Boughner predicted will be an emotional game.
"We’ve made this goal from day one (and) we’re finally here," Boughner said. "A lot of guys will be wearing that uniform for the last time. How do you want to go out?"
SECOND CHANCE FOR HAMONIC
Wheat Kings defenceman Travis Hamonic is looking forward to his second chance. He was injured late in the semifinal game of the world juniors and was unable to play in the finals when Canada lost to the Americans.
Hamonic is excited to be able to play in this big game after missing out on one in January.
"Obviously I had my doubts about going for the morning skate in case I got an injury," Hamonic joked with the media Sunday morning. "I made it through the skate and pending me falling on the way back to the hotel I think I’ll be alright.
"I promised myself if I ever got a second chance at a big championship game I would hold onto it with both hands and play the best that I possibly can."
Which means he might never leave the ice.
"If I could play 60 (minutes) I would play 60," he said. "It’s one of those situations you just want to be on the ice as much as possible because you want to help the team."
The Spitfires thumped the host Brandon Wheat Kings in the tournament opener 9-3. Neither team is expecting a similar result in the final and with the exception of the media asking about it, it appears that game is out of sight, out of mind.
"By and large, your focus has to be looking straight ahead," Wheat Kings head coach Kelly McCrimmon said. "There’s not much for our team to pull out of that. I would suspect Windsor feels the same."
HALL VS. HAMONIC
Hamonic expects to see plenty of Hall, in spite of his team not having the final change. Windsor is deemed the home team by virtue of earning a berth in the final through the round robin.
One of the more memorable moments of the tournament came early when Hall and Hamonic collided near the net and Hall bent like an accordion into the end boards. Although they were teammates on Canada’s world junior team, Hamonic said there will be no love lost when he’s pitted against Hall and other fellow Canadian world junior teammates, Nemisz, Adam Henrique and Ryan Ellis.
"If they have a chance to run me through the boards, I know they’re going to do it and I think they expect the same thing from me," Hamonic said.
Although the Wheat Kings have little to draw from their first showing against the Spitfires, they did set the tempo in the first couple minutes before Kenny Ryan opened the scoring.
Boughner is confident his team will be ready for the rough and tumble style that is so often played by teams from the west.
"I think they out-hit Calgary (in the semifinal) really bad and they have to know to slow us down they got to be physical," Boughner said. "But I don’t mind that. We have guys that love that kind of style. You look at (Zack) Kassian, you look at Kenny Ryan who can throw the body, Marc Cantin, Mark Cundari. That’s a game that doesn’t faze us."
The game time has been changed to 6 p.m. local time.