Memorial Cup final a huge deal

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

MONCTON -- Alexander Radulov arrived from Russia nearly two years ago to play for the Quebec Remparts and didn't know the Memorial Cup from a coffee cup.

But there is nothing the 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect wants more today than to get his hands on the Memorial Cup -- so much so that Radulov said the final against the host Moncton Wildcats means more to him than playing for his homeland in the world junior final against Canada this past winter in Vancouver.

"This is why I came to Canada, this is why you play hockey," Radulov said. "(The world junior) was big for me, but this is my team, the one I have been with for two years. This is like the Stanley Cup for us. You can't compare it to the world junior. It is a different tournament. The Memorial Cup, oh my God. People always remember winners."

It's the final that seemed ordained from the start of the Canadian Hockey League playoffs, as the Wildcats and Remparts were No. 1 and 2 in the final CHL rankings in March. The Wildcats beat the Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, and the Remparts countered with a win against their rivals in the Cup round-robin.

Though Wildcats coach Ted Nolan and Remparts coach Patrick Roy don't have much time for each other, neither wanted to give the other fuel yesterday. Nolan has been through this before, having coached the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to a Cup title 13 years ago. But Roy does not think he gives up anything in the experience department.

"I can't talk to my players as a coach (with experience) but I can talk to them as a player," Roy said. "That is what I have tried to do. Both of these teams are hungry for this."

Nolan also was in the Memorial Cup final with the Greyhounds in 1992, but lost to the Kamloops Blazers.

"Experience teaches you to relax a little more and concentrate on things you can control," Nolan said. "We want them to worry about us. We are going to bring our 'A' game like we have never brought before, and let them try to keep up to us versus us worrying about them."

What is intriguing about each of the two finalists is few would have predicted their participation today.

GUARANTEED

The Wildcats, as hosts, were guaranteed a spot in the tournament, but that did not stop Nolan from going out and acquiring instrumental players, including defenceman Luc Bourdon and goalie Josh Tordjman.

The Remparts began the season 1-4, and that's when Roy took over.

"If you told us we were going to be in the Memorial Cup championship game eight months ago, some of us would not have believed it," Quebec's Andrew Andricopoulos said. "I can't believe all we've been through. (Today) will be huge."

The clubs will make history when they step on the ice, as the final never has involved two teams from the QMJHL. It will be the first time a Quebec league team has won the Cup since the Rimouski Oceanic, with Brad Richards, won in 2000.

"It's an extra special thing," Wildcats goalie Josh Tordjman said.

"It has never happened and it is going to be amazing."


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