RIMOUSKI, Que. -- Stone-faced Harry Young is constantly asked, teased even, about why he never smiles.
Clearly, the always serious Windsor Spitfires captain was saving it for the right moment.
The big 19-year-old from Windsor wore a mug of pure joy as he raised the Memorial Cup over his head, kick-starting the celebration of his hometown’s first Canadian Hockey League crown in the franchise’s 34-year-history after a 4-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets before 4,811 Sunday night at the Rimouski Colisee.
The Ontario Hockey League champion Spitfires made Cup history by becoming the first team to come through the tie-breaker game and ascend to tournament king.
“People were asking me about it and that’s the only one (smile) you’ll see,” Young said. “We heard everyone say how it’s never been done, no one’s come back from the tie-breaker but I knew if there was one team that could do it, it was this one.
“We’ve been through a lot this year and we’ve always been able to overcome anything that came our way. With all the people who have been looking out for us from above, there was never any doubt that we could do this.”
Two years ago, these Spitfires won just 18 games under new ownership. In February, 2008, they buried their captain Mickey Renaud, who passed away suddenly from a heart ailment.
But the player who will forever wear No. 18 in Windsor is always in their minds. Fifteen months later, they’re skating on clouds.
“It was meant to be this season,” Cup MVP Taylor Hall said. “We started here 0-2 and no one thought it was possible. But we found a way. This team always does. We all love each other. It’s the tightest group. When we need it most, we come through.”
Windsor won four straight elimination games. No one else here did it once.
The Spitfires were the only team to win four in a row, the only team to win on consecutive nights and the lone club to beat the same opponent — in this case Kelowna — twice.
They played the other three teams once in the round robin, then picked them off one by one in what will be regarded as one of the most competitive Cup tournaments in history.
The largest margin of victory was three — in the Cup finale and the tournament opener.
“Everyone wrote us off after losing two here,” Windsor defenceman Ryan Ellis said. “That made us mad. We were going to show everybody they were wrong about us. It’s the most resilient team I’ve ever seen.”
Defenceman Ben Shutron saw a familiar look in Kelowna’s eyes when he shook their hands after the game. That was him last year in Kitchener.
“I never thought I’d get the chance to get back but with God’s good grace, I did,” said the 20-year-old blueliner, traded at midseason from Kitchener to Kitchener along with forward Scott Timmins and goalie Josh Unice for one last gasp. “I cried after both games but this time, it was happy tears. I’ve never seen a team like this.
“They should make a movie about these guys.”
Windsor scored on its first three shots. They had a three-goal lead before Kelowna could shake the rust off five days off.
Semifinal overtime hero Adam Henrique was first. Then Dale Mitchell, who scored three third-period goals in 3:33 to oust host Rimouski in the tie-breaker.
Defender Rob Kwiet chased Kelowna starting goalie Mark Guggenberger just 7:11 into the game. Reliever Adam Brown hadn’t played since March 14.
“To make it this far and lose isn’t a good feeling,” said Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska, denied his fifth Cup as a player and coach. “It wasn’t the days off. Windsor played well and when you fall behind early, you have expend a lot of energy to get back in it.”
The largest group of Spitfires fans sat in Section 18. GM Warren Rychel and head coach Bob Boughner tried to organize a group picture in front of it.
Rychel, the architect of the team, had trouble finding a spot in the rink to nervously watch these games. He emerged from a corner of the Colisee to join the celebration.
“After 0-2, I found my karma spot,” he said. “This is so satisfying. Great coaching. Great players.
“This team was capable of anything and they proved it.”
Follow Ryan Pyette at the Memorial Cup on Twitter at www.twitter.com/slamsports