After the Windsor Spitfires lost their first two games at the 2009 Memorial Cup in Rimouski, who could have foreseen the back-to-back championships that awaited them?
Two games into the 2009 tournament, the Spitfires, coached by Bob Boughner, had one skate on the road home, having lost 3-2 in overtime to Guy Boucher’s Drummondville Voltigeurs and 5-4 to the Clement Jodoin-coached Rimouski Oceanic.
In the end, the Spitfires became the first team to start 0-2 and win the championship, and the first champion to win a tiebreaker.
“We knew if anyone could do it, it was us,” defenceman Harry Young, the Spitfires’ captain, said. “We have such a close group here. It was the first time this year we really faced adversity and we pulled through.”
It is doubtful that anyone saw Windsor’s rough start coming; after all, it had made a 16-4 run to the OHL title.
The WHL-champion Kelowna Rockets, coached by Ryan Huska, had opened the tournament on May 15 by beating Rimouski, 4-1.
The next day, Drummondville edged Windsor on Maxime Frenette’s goal at 8:56 of overtime. On May 17, Rimouski scored four second-period goals to dump Windsor and, just like that, the Spitfires were 0-2.
On May 18, Kelowna went to 2-0, riding four Jamie Benn goals to a 6-4 victory over the Voltigeurs. The next day, the Spitfires, facing elimination, snuck past the Rockets, 2-1, by erasing a 1-0 second-period deficit on goals from Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis.
In the final round-robin game, Drummondville got a goal from Gabriel Dumont at 13:23 of OT to beat the Oceanic, 3-2.
That put Windsor into a tiebreaker with Rimouski on May 21. The Spitfires, trailing 4-2 going into the third period, got three straight goals from Dale Mitchell and won, 6-4.
One day later, the Spitfires, still skating on a tightrope, beat the Voltigeurs, 3-2, on an Adam Henrique goal at 4:31 of OT.
That set up the May 24 final with Kelowna, and the Spitfires took control early, getting goals from Henrique, Mitchell and Rob Kwiet on their first three shots en route to a 4-1 victory.
“We got a little fortunate early,” Boughner said. “We had a couple of goals go in that maybe weren’t great goals.
“Kelowna kept fighting back, but we played that smothering style and put a blanket on them.”
The Spitfires had been stunned the previous season when Mickey Renaud, their captain, died of a heart condition on Feb. 18, 2008. A number of players off that roster were in the Memorial Cup. As well, Windsor’s auto industry had taken a number of recent hits.
“With the atmosphere at home and all the people supporting us, it means everything for us to do this for them,” said Young, adding that he and his teammates knew that Renaud “was watching over us all tournament.”
2009 Windsor Spitfires:
Jesse Blacker, Mark Cundari, Ryan Ellis, Andrew Engelage, Richard Greenop, Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Rob Kwiet, Andrei Loktionov, Lane MacDermid, Dale Mitchell, Greg Nemisz, Conor O’Donnell, Justin Shugg, Ben Shutron, Scott Timmins, Josh Unice, Adam Wallace, Austin Watson, Eric Wellwood, Harry Young, Warren Rychel (general manager), Bob Boughner (coach).
NHL: Loktionov was with the LA Kings during their 2012 Stanley Cup season playing 39 regular season games. Hall has been selected for 3 NHL All-Star teams including the rookie team in 2011 and the full team in 2016 and 2018. Rychel won a Stanley Cup in 1996 with the Colorado Avalanche and played 8 NHL seasons with 5 different teams. Boughner played 630 NHL games across 12 seasons with 6 different teams. In 2017 he was named the Head Coach of the Florida Panthers.