Champions Spitfires on cruise control one year later

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

BRANDON — At this time last spring, the Windsor Spitfires probably would have done almost anything for a day off but understood they couldn’t really afford one until Saturday.

After digging themselves an 0-2 hole in Rimouski, Que., the Spitfires took the road less traveled and won their final four games to capture the first Memorial Cup in franchise history.

Playing three games in four days meant the thought of rust creeping into their game was never a concern.

But at the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Brandon, the Spitfires are already home and cooled after finishing the round robin at 3-0.

They don’t play again until Sunday and are spending the next few days trying to find the happy medium between thinking about hockey enough but not too much, to the point where boredom might creep in.

“We’ve got some activities planned with the guys,” said Spitfires GM Warren Rychel. “We have to monitor it closely. We’ll make sure they’re loose, just hanging out with each other, spending time with each other and getting ready for the ultimate goal on Sunday.”

The thought of the Spitfires losing focus due to the light schedule is rather absurd, considering what they had to do just to get back to the tournament and have a chance to repeat.

Bouncing back from an 0-3 deficit against the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL’s Western Conference final of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs suggests the Spitfires can deal with anything thrown their way, even if it means three full days between games.

“We’re going to worry about the game when it comes,” said Spitfires defenceman Ryan Ellis. “Over-thinking it could be a bad thing for us.”

It might be more challenging for a team that hadn’t been to the national championship before, but when you’re the defending champion and have a strong core of returnees, being comfortable in your surroundings is a little easier.

“Guys know what to expect and the coaches know what to expect,” Rychel said. “Last year, we didn’t know what to expect, and hence, the 0-2 start, which was unbelievable. Now, we’re ready. We won our first game, we’re pretty relaxed and guys are doing their thing.

“Our guys respond to rest real well.”

Rychel is looking forward to watching the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Calgary Hitmen go head-to-head before one of them reaches the final.

“I can’t wait to watch,” Rychel added. “We’ll get a real taste of the Western Hockey League here and see our opponent. Quite frankly, I hope they wear each other out.”

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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