Monday, October 30, 2017

1999 Lewis Cup Finals

The 1999 Lewis Cup Finals was the first all-Canadian Final since the Windsor Wings defeated the Hamilton Kings in 1941. The Montreal Royale, the Lewis Cup winners in 1992 and ’95, faced the Winnipeg Pioneers, a team making their first-ever appearance in the Lewis Cup Finals. In the opening game, Zdeno Kadlec’s two-goal performance led Montreal to a 3-1 win, followed by a shutout for Jonathan Bouret in game two to give Montreal a 2-0 series lead. The series shifted to the CanaDome in Winnipeg for game three and the entire city was buzzing with excitement. Fans lined up down Portage Street hours before tickets went on sale. The Pioneers did not let their home crowd down, as Dan Crow and Brendon Dawson each scored in a 2-1 win. Two nights later, game four went into overtime, where Jason Whitaker scored the winner to tie the series.

Back in Montreal for game five, the Royale needed their top players to step up. Vincent Ducharme, who had not scored since game one, had a goal and three assists while Bouret stopped 43 shots as Montreal took the game 4-1 to earn an opportunity to take the Cup in game six. With the Lewis Cup in the building for game six, the Pioneers were in desperation mode. Ducharme opened the scoring, but Crow tied it just two minutes later. After Sergei Vetrov gave the Royale the lead again, Trevor Nolan tied it for the second time. The game went into overtime and just 42 seconds in, Vetrov had the Cup winner on his stick but put it just over the net. Luke Morrison stopped nine shots in the first overtime before finally, Ryan Cobb scored on a breakaway to force a game seven. “If we had been told at the start of the season that we’d be playing game seven of the finals, we’d take it” said Vincent Ducharme. “We just need to stay focused.”

Game seven was in Montreal but fans also packed the CanaDome back in Winnipeg to watch it on the big screen. Through the first period, both goaltenders stood on their heads, as the game remained scoreless. Six minutes into the second period, Sylvain Landry took a penalty for boarding and Winnipeg went on the powerplay. For two minutes, the Pioneers peppered Jonathan Bouret with shots, but Bouret stood tall as the Royale killed the penalty. Just three minutes into the third period, Jarkko Vesa’s slapshot made its way through traffic and into the net to give the Royale a 1-0 lead. Winnipeg pushed for the tying goal throughout the third period but Bouret was spectacular. The Pioneers pulled Morrison but could not solve Bouret. Finally, with just eight seconds left, Evan Flowers dumped the puck out as the clock ran down to zero. The crowd erupted as the Royale mobbed their heroic goaltender. Bouret was named playoff MVP and the Montreal Royale were presented their third Lewis Cup of the decade. As the team skated with the Cup, Head Coach Don Shelburne revealed in an interview that he had coached his final game. “I can’t imagine ending my career a better way” said the now six-time champion.

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