Memorial Cup flashback: Blazers’ last-second goal seals a franchise first

Memorial Cup flashback: Blazers’ last-second goal seals a franchise first

May 23, 2024 at 11:38 am  Kamloops Blazers, Sports

The Kamloops Blazers stand as one of the most storied franchises in Canadian junior hockey history.

The team is tied for the fifth-most trips to the Memorial Cup in the tournament’s history with seven cracks at the trophy and three ultimate victories.

But heading into the 1992 edition of the tournament, Kamloops was very much the team that always came close, but could never ultimately get the job done.

The Blazers were primed for their fourth trip to the Memorial Cup- and second in two seasons, after going 0-3 in 1990 and finishing third in both of their previous attempts.

This time would be different.

1992 saw Seattle become the first United States-based squad to host since Portland had earned the rights in 1983 and 1986.

It would kick off a decade of dominance for the WHL Champion Blazers.

The 1991-92 regular season saw Kamloops cruise to a third straight 50-plus win campaign with a 51-17-4 record, clinching the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the league’s regular season champions.

The Blazers allowed the fewest goals against in the WHL in 1991-92, thanks, in part, to Goaltender of the Year Corey Hirsch and formidable defencemen like Scott Niedermayer and Darryl Sydor, who had started the season with the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings, respectively.

Seattle, backstopped by future three-time Stanley Cup Champion Chris Osgood, struggled during the regular season but came alive in the playoffs, where they were downed by Kamloops in the Western Conference final.

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, coached by longtime CHL and NHL bench boss Ted Nolan, were back at the big dance for a second straight year, while the short-lived Verdun College-Francais represented the QMJHL.

Kamloops seemed doomed to repeat past mistakes after dropping its opening match against the Greyhounds, but Hirsch restored their hopes with a 4-0 shutout performance against Verdun.

Niedermayer tallied a shorthanded goal and netted a pair of helpers against Seattle in the final round-robin match, setting up a semifinal showdown against the hosts in the Thunderbirds’ first-ever Memorial Cup appearance.

Blazers forward Mike Mathers erupted for a CHL record-tying six points (three goals, three assists) in an 8-3 victory, sealing a berth against Sault Ste. Marie in the final.

That set the stage for one of the most dramatic finishes in the tournament’s history.

With the game tied 4-4 in the final minute of the game, Niedermayer wired a long pass to spring Zac  Boyer on a breakaway to pot the Memorial Cup-winning goal with 14.6 seconds remaining.

As Boyer would tell it, it’s all thanks to his teammate, Ed Patterson, getting speared.

“I guess I can thank Ed Patterson because he came off the ice,” Boyer told the CHL. “He got speared in the stomach and threw up. He came to the bench and I replaced him.

“We did it the hard way and we earned it. There’s no better way than that.”

The Blazers would capture the Memorial Cup twice more in 1994 and 1995 and return to the league final in 1999.

Current Calgary Flames Head Coach Ryan Huska, NHLer and broadcaster Tyson Nash and Toronto Maple Leafs stalwart Darcy Tucker were all rookies on the 1992 squad and still hold the CHL record for most Memorial Cup wins as players with three apiece.

As the Memorial Cup returns to the United States for the 2024 edition in Saginaw, Mich., three of the four participating teams (Saginaw, Moose Jaw and Drummondville) will hunt for their first win at the CHL championship.

Moose Jaw opens the tournament against Saginaw on Friday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. MST.

 

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