- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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The Memorial Cup opens tonight and four teams, including Dallas Stars prospect Matt Fraser’s Kootenay Ice, will be battling to become the top junior team in the CHL.
“It’s for the best team in Canada in junior hockey,” said Fraser, whose team is the Western Hockey League champions. “It’s the Stanley Cup of the Canadian Hockey League.”
The Ice will take on the Owen Sound Attack (Ontario Hockey League champions), St. John Sea Dogs (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions) and the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (host team) at the tournament.
“I think it’s one of the harder trophies to win in sports,” said Fraser, who will see his first action Saturday night.
Each of the league champions has already won four best-of-seven series in their respective leagues. Mississauga, this year’s host, played four rounds as well, falling in the OHL championship series to Owen Sound in overtime in Game 7.
Now, they come to this tournament where there is little margin for error. The teams play each either once in a round-robin format and then are ranked one through four. The first place team gets a birth in the championship game, the second and third place teams go to the semifinal game and the fourth place team is out. If there’s a tie for third place, then there is a tiebreaker game to determine which team gets the semifinal playoff spot.
Besides a chance to see Stars prospect Matt Fraser, the Memorial Cup is a chance to see some of the top players eligible for this summer’s NHL Draft as well.
There are 17 draft eligible players in this year’s tournament, including four of the top 20 North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings, and all of them play on QMJHL champion St. John: C Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd); D Nathan Beaulieu (5th); C Zach Phillips (15th); RW Tomas Jurco (20th).
The NHL Network in the U.S. will provide coverage of the Memorial Cup with a mix of live and taped delay broadcasts. Kootenay’s games on Saturday and Sunday will be carried live and its Tuesday game will be broadcast on a tape delay basis on Wednesday. Here’s the tournament schedule and the NHL Network’s broadcast plans.
Memorial Cup Schedule
Schedule for the 2011 Memorial Cup, which runs May 20-May 29. All times are
Central Daylight Time.