Cranbrook, B.C. – It was in 2011 when Brayden McNabb played a pivotal role in the Kootenay ICE capturing its third WHL championship, and now seven years later, the 27-year-old is on the cusp of hockey history.
The current Vegas Golden Knights blue-liner is four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup, which would be a fitting end to such an incredible season for the NHL’s newest franchise.
“We’re a pretty good team when we play our game and when we do that we’re pretty confident,” McNabb explained.
And it seems the Golden Knights have been playing their game for the entire 2017-18 season. The first-year team finished the regular season with 51 victories and 109 points, which had them positioned first in the Pacific Division, third in the Western Conference and fifth in the league.
The Knights solid play has only increased since the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It took them a combined 15 games to dispose of the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets. The Knights have a playoff record of 12-3 heading into the Stanley Cup Final.
This is the longest playoff run of McNabb’s NHL career. Back in 2011, the Davidson, Saskatchewan native helped the ICE get by the Moose Jaw Warriors, Saskatoon Blades, Medicine Hat Tigers and Portland Winterhawks enroute to a WHL title. McNabb registered an impressive 27 points in 19 playoff games during that run. He believes the experience of that long playoff run is something he can draw upon during the Golden Knights’ current march to the cup final.
“We weren’t a team loaded with superstars but we had a full team effort where everyone worked hard, and it’s kind of similar to this team,” said McNabb. “It’s definitely something you can look back on as an experience and use it for the finals here.”
McNabb dawned the Kootenay ICE jersey for four full seasons, from 2007-2011. During that time, he suited up in 255 regular season games, recording 51 goals and 125 assists for 176 points. Mid-way through the 2010-2011 season, McNabb and the ICE were joined by Cody Eakin after a monster trade with the Swift Current Broncos. McNabb and Eakin are now teammates in Vegas.
“To be able to play with [Cody Eakin] again is a lot of fun, and, you know, we get to chat about a lot of old fun memories, and if I could win another championship with him it’d be unreal.”
McNabb and Eakin are not the only ICE alumni vying for a Stanley Cup title. Golden Knights’ Assistant Coach Ryan McGill spent seven full seasons as the head coach of the Kootenay ICE (1998-2002, 2012-2015).
The Stanley Cup Final begins on Monday, where the Vegas Golden Knights will open the series on home turf against the Washington Capitals. It is the first time the Caps have earned a berth to the finals since 1998.
“They got a lot of high offensive guys and their goalie is playing great right now so it’s going to be a challenge to shut down the Ovechkin line but they have solid lines, one through four, and we’re going to just need 20 guys to be on their A game.”
Heading into Monday’s contest, the Knights are 6-1 on home ice in the playoffs, while the Capitals are 8-2 on the road.
Puck drop for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.