Showtime for show stopper

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The question is put to St. John's native Ryan Mior:

Who is the best goalie to come out of Newfoundland?

"Um, I don't know," the 20-year-old says with a chuckle. "I'm sure there are some up-and-comers on the way."

Hockey historian Liam Maguire points out that Corner Brook's Doug Grant played 77 NHL games in the 1970s, and that he had a pretty solid career in the minors.

Mior can earn himself at least some second-place votes beginning tonight, when he's in charge of stopping the host Kitchener Rangers in the Memorial Cup opener.

If there was any doubt as to the importance the Gatineau Olympiques goaltender has in this tournament, it was put into perspective by Charlie Henry, the team's astute governor and director of hockey.

"I don't think we measure up to Kitchener, talent-wise," Henry said. "I think Kitchener is the big team there. Playing them with a good rest, though, I expect a helluva hockey game. If they beat us, they'll have to play well.

MUST PLAY WELL

"That's if Mior plays well," Henry added. "If he plays well, we're okay. If Mior doesn't play well, we're going to look bad."

Henry acquired Mior two Christmases ago from the P.E.I. Rocket for high-scoring centre Brett Morrison. The Olympiques came out big winners in the deal.

Wearing Gatineau purple, Mior became the QMJHL's all-time leader in games played by a goalie (270) and shutouts (15). His six goose eggs in 2007-08 broke an Olympiques single-season record held by Jose Theodore.

Mior has won 48 games since September (including playoffs) and posted a goals-against average that hovers in the 2.70 range.

Morrison was dealt from P.E.I. to Rouyn-Noranda, where he had an excellent view of Mior's dominance in the league final.

"Mior has played very well," said Henry. "At 16 years old, I didn't like him. He played so well some games and not so well in others. But he got better."

Mior brushes away the suggestion he'll be under a lot of heat in Kitchener.

"I don't have any pressure on me at all," he said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm just going to play to the best of my ability every night, and do what I can do."

What can the Olympiques do against the best in the country? Mior believes they are capable of winning it all.

"I think everybody knows we have a real shot at it," he said. "We're excited to compare ourselves to the rest of the CHL.

"From what I've heard, Kitchener and Belleville are really strong, and so is Spokane. This year they geared themselves toward winning their leagues. We didn't really gear towards it, but it just kind of happened. After Christmas, when we made some trades, everybody just sort of got on the same page, system-wise.

"We have really good team spirit," Mior added. "You don't always need the best talent. We all get along so well, and we have a lot of respect for each other."

Bypassed in the NHL draft, Mior has a chance to give his career a big boost. But that can wait.

"We're in the Memorial Cup, I have nothing else on my mind," said the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder. "Whatever is on the table at the end of the tournament, whether it be offers from schools or the pros, I'll deal with it then. This is what matters now."


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