Photo credit:Brian Liesse/WHL
Calgary Flames prospect Lucas Ciona is chasing a Memorial Cup with the Seattle Thunderbirds
By Ryan Pike9 months ago
The 103rd edition of the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup championship tournament begins on Friday in Kamloops. The annual tournament pits a host team against the league champions from each of Canada’s major junior circuits, and because of the many nuances involved, it’s one of the toughest tournaments in the sport to win.
Calgary Flames prospect Lucas Ciona, captaining the Western League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, is heading to Kamloops this weekend trying to capture a Memorial Cup.
Four teams are taking part in this year’s Memorial Cup:
- The hosts, the Kamloops Blazers – seventh appearance, last championship was 1995
- The WHL champions, the Seattle Thunderbirds – third appearance, have never won
- The QMJHL champions, the Quebec Remparts – eighth appearance, last championship was 2006
- The OHL champions, the Peterborough Petes – 10th appearance, last championship was 1979
A WHL team has not won the tournament since 2014, when Edmonton won it all. Since then, the OHL has won three, the QMJHL has won three, and the tournament was cancelled twice due to the pandemic. If you look back at the last 10 completed tournaments, the WHL has won once, the QMJHL six times and the OHL three times.
Suffice it to say, history isn’t exactly on the Thunderbirds’ side. But the T-Birds are a wagon, with a slew of NHL-drafted players and enough depth that Jarome Iginla’s son, Tij, was limited to three appearances and otherwise sat as a health scratch.
The T-Birds will attempt to triumph over a Kamloops team they eliminated in the conference final round, a Peterborough team that upset a strong Ottawa 67’s club in the OHL’s second round, and a Quebec team that was a powerhouse throughout the QMJHL season.
The Thunderbirds play Peterborough on Saturday at 4 p.m. MT, Quebec on Monday at 7 p.m. MT, and Kamloops on Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT. The elimination portion of the tournament would begin on Thursday, June 1, and cap off with the final on Sunday, June 4.
The 20-year-old Ciona has an NHL entry-level deal that kicks in next season, so it’s likely these are his final major junior games. After putting up 75 points in 63 regular season games, he was very strong depth with nine points in 19 playoff games en route to a Western League crown. He’ll need to continue playing a physical role and leading by example if he wants to end his junior career with a Memorial Cup – and finally end the WHL’s stretch of futility at the tournament.
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