RED DEER – After a hard-fought gold medal game against Team Manitoba, Team Alberta came away from the 2023 WHL Cup with a silver medal after a 6-5 shootout loss on Sunday, October 22.
The Albertans got off on the right note early in the contest when Patrick Sopiarz (Edmonton) opened the scoring with his third marker of the tournament 2:21 into the first period. The remainder of the period was a back-and-forth affair, as the two teams would trade off goals with Caelan Joudrey (Airdrie) potting Alberta’s second goal of the game to level the playing field at 2-2 after one.
The deadlock would only last 56 seconds into the second as Cruz Pavao (Calgary) found the back of the net with his third of the event to make it 3-2 in favour of Team Alberta. Midway through the second stanza, Manitoba broke the game open with three consecutive goals to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead heading into the final period.
Jordan Duguay (Edmonton) made it 5-4 six minutes into the third and Sopiarz tied the game at 5-5 with his second goal of the afternoon and fourth of the tournament. The game headed into a 10-minute overtime period, and while there were chances at both ends, neither team found the back of the net which pushed the championship game to a shootout.
The shootout went six rounds and while Pavao found the net on Alberta’s fifth attempt, Manitoba scored on their fifth and sixth tries to take a 6-5 victory and the gold medal.
Joudrey wrapped up his strong tournament with a goal and three assists in the final game, while Ty Meunier (St. Albert) chipped in with three assists. Goaltender Ryley Budd (Calgary) turned aside 29 of the 34 shots he faced throughout the game. Joudrey was tied for the team lead in points (8) with Meunier and Jordan Duguay, and goals (4) with Patrick Sopiarz. The trio of Joudrey, Duguay and Meunier were tied for third overall in tournament point leaders.
Alberta’s path to the gold medal game began on Wednesday, October 18 when they defeated Manitoba 4-2. The group followed up that performance with 3-2 loss to Saskatchewan and a convincing 8-1 victory over British Columbia to close out round robin play with a 2-1 record. Alberta would exact a measure of revenge on Team Saskatchewan in the semi-finals with a 7-3 victory that pushed them to the final against Manitoba.