For The Morning Star
LONDON, ONT. – Vernon’s Curtis Lazar made Memorial Cup history Friday night as the Edmonton Oil Kings edged the Val-d’Or Foreur 3-2.
The Ottawa Senators’ first-round draft pick scored 2:42 into the third overtime in the semifinal at the Budweiser Centre, bringing to an end the longest game in the 95-year history of Memorial Cup.
“It’s the first overtime goal I’ve ever scored in junior hockey,” said Lazar. “I still have to digest it. They took my stick. It’s going to the Hall of Fame and that’s pretty cool. We have something special from this team every night and it was my turn tonight. I capitalized on the opportunity.”
Edmonton takes on the Guelph Storm in today’s final (1 p.m. Sportsnet).
Lazar, 19, explained how the biggest motivator he had in the overtime was to make amends for Val-d’Or’s last-minute tying goal by d-man Guillaume Gelinas.
“It’s a big relief, especially because on that goal in the third period, that was my guy going out there and I wasn’t able to block it. I felt a little guilty for that,” said the six-foot, 200-pounder.
With his conscience cleared, Lazar, who how has four points in four Memorial Cup games, said he’ll reflect back on this game with fond memories forever.
“It was pretty fun to be a part of,” he said. “You don’t want to make a mistake but you can’t play like that. You’d dump the puck and just sit there and catch your breath. There wasn’t a lot of forechecking. There were a bunch of 3-on-2s. That’s overtime hockey and you embrace it. Look, you could be sitting where I am right now,” he joked, while flashing his trademark beaming smile in referring to his lofty perch at a press conference podium reserved for only the head coaches at the tournament, with all the players having to stand in a row in a different area.
Lazar, who was among the top 10 scorers in the Western Hockey League this season, is in his second Memorial Cup.
Lazar said all the support he has received from Vernon has made his run at the tournament even sweeter.
“You’re playing for a lot more than just the Memorial Cup and your team,” said Lazar, who was also a star at the World Junior Championship in Sweden five months ago. “You’re playing for your hometown and that just adds to the excitement. There’s even a couple of guys from Vernon I battled with during the Western Hockey League playoffs and I’m getting support from those guys – my competitors – it’s just great.”
Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal said it was fitting that Lazar was the player to bring the historic game to an end.
“Games like this, they mold your character, as a person and as a player,” said Laxdal. “It doesn’t surprise me that Curtis got the goal. He’s a big-game player. He’s a big-moment player.”
In today’s final, Lazar and the Oil Kings will face the formidable challenge of the top-ranked Guelph. The Storm have yet to be tested in London, winning their three preliminary round games by a cumulative score of 18-7. They will come into the game with three full days of rest.
“We have that momentum. They have the time off. It’s going to be a cool mix,” said Lazar. “It’s going to be a 60-minute game – hopefully 60 minutes – but we’ll just go out there and leave it all on the ice.”