Spitfires banking on experience

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:06 PM ET

BRANDON — Regardless of the final outcome, Sunday is sure to be an emotional night for the Windsor Spitfires.

The Spitfires meet the host Brandon Wheat Kings at Westman Place Sunday (6 p.m. CT, Sportsnet) in the championship final of the 2010 Memorial Cup and will attempt to defend their national crown.

For many Spitfires players, it will be their final game with the organization.

Some have played out their eligibility, while others are set to embark on their professional careers.

“It’s going to be mixed emotions because a lot of our boys are leaving,” said Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner, who is about to complete his fourth season behind the bench. “It will be tough. We’ve talked a lot about finishing it off the right way.”

The Spitfires take pride in playing the right way and believe those good habits can help push them over the top again.

“We’re coming in here as the defending Memorial Cup champion, so we know what it takes to win,” said Spitfires defenceman Mark Cundari. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of playoff games, a lot of big games in their careers, and the experience factor is huge.

“They’ve got a great squad over there, and they’re going to play their hardest, but we know if we play our game, we can beat anyone.”

Just because they have more experience, the Spitfires aren’t banking on that being a determining factor on Sunday.

“Everyone does the right things on this team, I’m not worried about anyone going outside of what they should be doing,” said Spitfires defenceman Ryan Ellis. “Experience helps, but the best team is going to win. That’s what hockey is all about.”

The chance to become the first team since 1995 to capture back-to-back Memorial Cups (the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League were the last) is something the Spitfires aren’t taking lightly.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity we have in front of us,” said Spitfires forward Taylor Hall. “If you think about it, it’s not that hard. We’ve got three periods of hockey, and everybody has about 15 shifts. That’s not too much to ask.

“If you go out and play 100% and everyone chips in, at the end of the day, we could leave a legacy and that’s pretty special.”

Special is a word you often hear associated with this Spitfires team.

At the Memorial Cup in Rimouski, Que. last spring, they became the first team to overcome an 0-2 start and the first team to play in the tie-breaker and find a way to win the championship.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, for an encore, the Spitfires had to erase an 0-3 series deficit to the Kitchener Rangers in the Western Conference final before rallying to win the series and, ultimately, defend their Ontario Hockey League title.

Some eyebrows were raised this week when the Spitfires were sporting T-shirts with two Memorial Cups on the back, but they insist it’s not a feeling of entitlement that drives them to succeed.

“It’s one of the hardest tournaments to win,” said Boughner. “We haven’t sat down and said ‘Look, we can create a legacy or build a dynasty’ or anything like that. These guys are confident, but they’re pretty humble. But I’d be lying if I said these guys didn’t know in the back of their mind that this is a pretty special thing we’re attempting to do.

“People ask why we have the two (Memorial) Cups on the back of the shirt, and it’s not about being cocky. It’s about believing in our goals. We set this goal at the beginning of the season, and we’re as close as you can be now.”


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