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Photo Credit: NHL.com

Flames prospects Poirier, Kuznetsov await 2022 Memorial Cup Final opponent

A pair of Calgary Flames prospects are off to the 2022 Memorial Cup Final.

Saint John Sea Dogs defencemen Jeremie Poirier and Yan Kuznetsov will look to capture the most prestigious trophy in Canadian junior hockey on Wednesday when they face either the Hamilton Bulldogs or the Shawinigan Cataractes.

The Bulldogs and Cataractes are set to do battle in the tournament semifinal on Monday evening, with the winner earning a spot in the championship game against the host Sea Dogs.

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Poirier punched the Sea Dogs’ ticket to the final with the game-winning goal over Shawinigan in the final round-robin game on Saturday. Saint John came back from a 3–0 deficit to capture the game 5–3.

The Sea Dogs have put their best foot forward at the Memorial Cup, earning a bye to the championship game after posting the best record in the preliminary round.

Saint John has found success at the Memorial Cup after being upset by the Rimouski Océanic in the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

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After its early playoff exit, the Sea Dogs took the unusual step of firing head coach Gordie Dwyer a month before they were set to host one of hockey’s biggest tournaments.

Luckily, the Sea Dogs had a tailor-made replacement available to them: Gardiner MacDougall, who has overseen the dynastic hockey program at the University of New Brunswick since 2000. Under MacDougall’s watch, UNB has won seven national titles.

FlamesNation spoke to MacDougall last year to gather some insight on the role the Canadian collegiate hockey system plays in developing future professionals. Now, that same coach is one win away from capturing the Memorial Cup with two of the Flames’ top prospects, both of whom are set to join the professional ranks next season.

Poirier and Kuznetsov have been two of the Sea Dogs’ most impactful defenders at the Memorial Cup. After Connor Zary, the two rearguards were the Flames’ first selections at the 2020 NHL Draft.

Kuznetsov, selected No. 50 overall by Calgary in 2020, has one goal and three points with Saint John at the Memorial Cup. The 6’4″ left-handed defender managed two goals and 13 points in 25 games with the Sea Dogs during the 2021–22 regular season.

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Poirier, selected No. 72 overall in 2020, also has one goal and three points at the Memorial Cup. The two Sea Dogs are tied for the Memorial Cup defenceman scoring lead (Luke Prokop, Kaiden Guhle, and Arber Xhekaj also have three points, although Prokop and Guhle have already been eliminated).

New York Islanders prospect William Dufour has been the Sea Dogs’ offensive engine at the tournament, scoring six goals in three games — including four in the comeback win over Shawinigan on Saturday.

The Cataractes will be able to force a rematch with Saint John if they can defeat the Bulldogs on Monday evening (4:00 p.m. MT, TSN).

A pair of recent first-round picks have led the way for Shawinigan to this point: Xavier Bourgault (Edmonton Oilers) and Mavrik Bourque (Dallas Stars) both have six points in three games.

Hamilton’s offence has been more spread out, although 2021 third-overall pick Mason McTavish currently sits in a tie for the team lead with three goals in three games. Undrafted Bulldogs goaltender Marco Constantini leads the tournament with a .918 save percentage.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have already been eliminated from contention at the Memorial Cup after posting just one overtime win in their three round-robin games.

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Poirier, Kuznetsov, and the Sea Dogs will play for the Memorial Cup title at home on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. MT.


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