Host Windsor Spitfires set to take on Canada’s best at 2017 Memorial Cup

If there was a silver lining for Logan Stanley after an injury cost him half his Ontario Hockey League season, it was knowing his Windsor Spitfires would be hosting the 2017 Memorial Cup.

The hulking six-foot-seven, 230-pound defenceman will play his first hockey in four months when the Spitfires open the 99th edition of the major junior national championship on Friday against the Saint John Sea Dogs.

Stanley returns after suffering a knee injury in January and gives the hosts a much-needed boost against the three league champions that round out the four clubs participating for the Canadian Hockey League’s top prize.

“Now that we’re healthy and have everyone in our lineup it makes us a better team,” said the 18-year-old Stanley. ”Those three teams are real good but we know we can compete with them and can win. We’re ready to go.”

Stanley, who was selected 18th overall in the 2016 NHL draft by the Winnipeg Jets, completes a well-rounded defensive core that Windsor will need. Joining the host Spitfires and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Sea Dogs are the OHL champion Erie Otters and Western Hockey League champion Seattle Thunderbirds.

The Waterloo, Ont., native went down in mid-January and didn’t begin on-ice sessions until April. Now that Stanley is healthy and “feeling great,” Windsor has four top-quality blue liners to toss out against the opposition, including 2016 first-round pick Mikhail Sergechev (No. 9, Montreal) third-round selection Sean Day (No. 81, Rangers), who was acquired in an early-season trade from the Mississauga Steelheads, and Jalen Chatfield, who signed an NHL contract as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks.

“Guys did a good job filling in for (Stanley) but obviously he was a big loss,” said Spitfires coach Rocky Thompson. “He’s arguably your best defenceman, or No. 2 defenceman.

“I believe him to be one of the hardest defencemen to play against without the puck in the CHL, he’s done a great job preparing himself over the four-month stretch. He really grew as an athlete and an individual… Having him back in the lineup is so valuable.”

Windsor was eliminated in the first round of the OHL playoffs in seven games by the London Knights and have had six weeks to prepare for the Memorial Cup. Thompson says he had concerns that his team would lack motivation for such a long period of time without game action, but that isn’t the case.

“We’re healthy, we’re energized, best shape of these guys’ young lives and they’re excited to keep competing,” said Thompson.

The Sea Dogs finished the regular season as the top team in the QMJHL and cruised their way to their first league championship since 2011, going 16-2 in the playoffs with a four-game sweep of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the final.

The Otters were the top team in the OHL regular season and had little trouble in the playoffs, going 16-6 and defeating Mississauga in the final en route to winning their first league championship since 2002.

The Thunderbirds wrapped up the regular season with the fourth-highest point total of the 22 teams in the WHL, but still had to take the hard road to their first league championship in franchise history.

Seattle went 16-4 in the post-season despite having to knock off the U.S. Division champion Everett Silvertips and the No. 1 ranked team in the country, the Regina Pats, in the final.

Erie and Seattle begin round-robin play against each other Saturday.

Just Posted

Unemployment rate and EI beneficiaries down in Central Alberta

The unemployment rate for Red Deer region and the number of people… Continue reading

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month