The failure to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning the franchise’s first Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Memorial Cup hit the Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds players hard, real hard.
The Quebec Remparts dominated the T-Birds 5-0 to capture the Memorial Cup Sunday, June 4 at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia. Seattle had been shut out only one other game all season.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” said a dejected Lucas Ciona, the T-Birds team captain, according to the T-Birds website. “When you come here and you lose after you’ve made it so far, there’s no feeling that’s worse than this.”
Seattle accomplished a ton this season. The T-Birds set a franchise record 54 wins in the regular season. They won the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and took the WHL championship to advance to the Memorial Cup for only the third time. They had never played for the Memorial Cup title, which determines the top team among the 60 CHL clubs.
“It wasn’t our day today, what else can you say,” said T-Birds coach Matt O’Dette after the loss. “We weren’t sharp. We fell short.”
Seattle fell behind 6 minutes and 30 seconds into the opening period when the Remparts Vsevolod Komarov beat T-Birds goalie Thomas Milic glove side to finish a 2-on-1 rush. Seattle then spent a good portion of the second half of the first period killing off three Quebec power plays.
Quebec doubled their advantage at 8:50 of the second period when James Malatesta scored his fifth goal of the tournament while the teams skated four aside. Once again, the goal came on an odd-man rush.
The Remparts would add three more goals in the third period to pull away. Kassim Gaudet tallied at 12:21 followed 3 minutes later by a power play goal from Zachary Bolduc. Charles Savoie completed the scoring at 17:55.
The T-Birds finished the four-team, round-robin tournament with a 3-2 record with both losses to the Remparts.
The T-Birds never got the offense on track against the Remparts stifling defense. They were outshot for the first time in their five games in Kamloops, 35-32, as goalie William Rousseau recorded the tournaments only shutout.
“You tip your cap to them,” O’Dette said of the Quebec effort. “They’re a good team, they played really well. We didn’t execute well.”
O’Dette acknowledged the loss stings but says in no way does it take away from what has been the most successful season in franchise history.
“Only one team gets that winning feeling at the end of this tournament and we’re disappointed it’s not us,” he said. “It wasn’t our best game, but we have a lot to be proud of. We’ve accomplished a lot this year. It’s been an incredible season and I’m thankful for the team and the work they put in this year.”
Despite the Memorial Cup loss, O’Dette came away impressed with the 2022-2023 season.
“We’re adding three banners to the rafters,” O’Dette said looking ahead to next season at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. “It was a great season, an incredible season. We’re gonna remember it for a long time.”
• Seattle advanced to the title game with a 4-1 victory over the Peterborough Petes, of Ontario, in a semifinal June 2.
• T-Birds defenseman Noah Allan and forward Kyle Crnkovic each made the Memorial Cup all-star team. Quebec had three players on the six-member team.
• Seattle played a total of 92 games (68 regular season, 19 playoffs and five Memorial Cup games) this season. Over those 185 games, the T-Birds went 131-45-5-4.
• Jared Davidson played his entire five-year WHL career as a Thunderbird. Combining his regular season, WHL playoff and Memorial Cup games, he played in 306 games for Seattle, accumulating 268 points on 124 goals and 144 assists.
• Six T-Birds made NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft. That draft will be June 28-29 in Nashville. Among North American skaters, center Gracyn Sawchyn is ranked 24th; wing Nico Myatovic, 26th; defenseman Sawyer Mynio, 62nd; and defenseman Jeremy Hanzel, 124th. Among goalies, Scott Ratzlaff is ranked fourth and Thomas Milic 28th.
“It will be fun to see what some of our guys do next,” O’Dette said. “We’ll have a handful of guys going in the draft. A lot of exciting things to look forward to.”
• This year’s team featured 10 players taken in the NHL Draft.
• Quebec is coached by Patrick Roy, the former star goalie of the Colorado Avalance and Montreal Canadiens. Quebec won the Memorial Cup in 2006, Roy’s first year as coach. Roy has announced that this will be his final season as coach.
Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds, contributed to this article.