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Calder Cup showdown begins tonight

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Winnipeg Jets' Derek Meech (right) battles for the puck with Toronto Maple Leafs' Matt Frattin.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Jets' Derek Meech (right) battles for the puck with Toronto Maple Leafs' Matt Frattin.

CEDAR PARK, Texas — Of all the players in the Calder Cup final between the St. John’s IceCaps and Texas Stars, Winnipegger Derek Meech is the most common thread.

The defenceman, who has just passed his 30th birthday, has played for the IceCaps and their parent team, the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, in the previous two years and when his brief stint in the KHL in 2013-14 ended last November, he landed a spot with the AHL’s Texas Stars, the top affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, whose GM is Jim Nill, who used to work as the assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings, a system Meech was a part of for seven years.

Meech reflected on that Sunday at the Cedar Park Center, site of tonight’s Game 1.

"It’s been sort of weird playing against a couple of franchises that I was part of for the playoffs," Meech said, his Stars having earlier eliminated the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ farm team.

"But it’s been fun in the same respect. I expect St. John’s to come hard in our building here and it’s going to be a great series."

He said he loved the time he spent with the IceCaps over the two previous seasons.

"It was great," said Meech, who had 18 games with the Jets. "I was coming off some knee issues and went down for the playoffs (in 2012). We had a good run there, went to the third round and fell short. And playing with them during the lockout was great. Beautiful city. The fans are passionate and fill the building every night.

"I’m looking forward to getting back there."

The Stars were the AHL’s top regular-season team in 2013-14, and his addition for the final 36 games of the season was most certainly a factor.

"It’s been great playing here," he said. "The fans are so enthusiastic. It gets pretty loud. It’s going to be an exciting night tonight for sure."

Playing with Dallas’s top prospects and knowing many of the Jets’ top future players, Meech considers this final series more than exciting.

"It’s huge," he said. "Being able to watch prospects coming up and guys who have played with the club during the season, watching their success and seeing how well they’re doing has to be a great thing for Winnipeg and for St. John’s," he said. "They should be proud of what they’ve done."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

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