By: Nick Lanciani
The 98th MasterCard Memorial Cup is in the books and the London Knights are your 2016 Memorial Cup Champions as the CHL’s top team.
Matthew Tkachuk, son of NHL legend Keith Tkachuk, scored the game winning goal— his second of the game— at 7:49 of overtime on Sunday to lift the Knights to a 3-2 victory over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup Final.
A packed crowd at ENMAX Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta, witnessed Tyler Parsons make 29 saves on 31 shots faced for the win in a spectacular 67:49 effort. Chase Marchand made 31 saves on 33 shots against for the Huskies in the loss.
Knights forward, Max Jones was denied by Marchand on a breakaway with 14:53 to go in the first period on a sequence of early transitions and end-to-end action. Shortly thereafter, Rouyn-Noranda amassed a few great chances on Tyler Parsons that led to save after save by Parsons as the first period rolled along.
Mitch Marner led a furious two-on-one the other way for the London Knights with about 10 and a half minutes to go in the first period, but Marchand stood tall for the Huskies in goal and kept it a 0-0 game.
At 13:33 of the first period, Gabriel Fontaine took the first penalty of the game— a minor for boarding— and gave the immensely successful London Knights’s power play their first opportunity of the afternoon. But the Knights’s special teams were no match for Rouyn-Noranda’s penalty kill, as the Huskies killed the penalty with ease.
After twenty minutes, the game was scoreless. London was leading in shots on goal 11-6 and in faceoff wins 8-2 after the 1st.
A.J. Greer was called for roughing just 4:55 into the 2nd period and gave the Knights their second man advantage of the afternoon. Rouyn-Noranda killed the penalty without harm.
Tkachuk opened the game’s scoring with his 4th goal of the Memorial Cup tournament on a shot that he tipped in at 9:19 of the second period to give London a 1-0 lead. This year’s Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy winner as the Memorial Cup MVP, Mitch Marner, and his teammate Christian Dvorak picked up the assists on Tkachuk’s goal.
About 15 seconds later, Francis Perron answered back in a hurry for the Huskies and tied the game at one on a redirection of his own just about in the crease, reminiscent of former Kamloops Blazer, Mark Recchi. Timo Meier notched the lone assist on Perron’s 2nd goal of the tournament at 9:34 of the second period.
Meier would then receive a minor penalty for tripping at 12:49 of the 2nd and send the Knights on their third power play of the night. London was unable to convert on the man advantage.
Philippe Myers went down shortly thereafter with what appeared to be a knee injury, though no update was provided to the viewers watching on Sportsnet in Canada or on NHL Network in the United States.
Jacob Graves took the first and only penalty for London at 18:49 of the 2nd period. Graves was sent to the box for tripping and Rouyn-Noranda’s power play would extend into the 3rd period.
After forty minutes of play, the game was tied 1-1 and the Huskies were leading in shots on goal 22-21. London was in control of the faceoff circle, having dominated faceoff wins 18-12 after two periods. Rouyn-Noranda finished the second period without scoring on Graves’s penalty and would start the third period on the power play, while London went 0/3 on the man advantage heading into the second intermission.
The Huskies were unable to take advantage of their man advantage to start the third period and the game rolled along tied at one. After a flurry of chances at both ends, both teams settled into a rhythm.
Rouyn-Noranda took their first lead of the night a little after the nine-minute mark in the 3rd when Julien Nantel snapped a shot past Parsons to make it 2-1. The goal was Nantel’s 2nd of the Memorial Cup. Alexandre Fortin and Jeremy Lauzon picked up the primary and secondary assists at 9:13 of the period.
The Huskies promptly took a penalty nearly forty seconds later, when Greer sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor. Rouyn-Noranda amassed a short 5-on-3 penalty kill at 11:38 of the period when Fontaine was penalized for high sticking one of London’s skaters in front of the benches. The Knights were unable to convert on either of the power play opportunities, both when they had a two-man advantage and when play resumed to a normal 5-on-4 power play.
With time beginning to wind down in the third period, Christian Dvorak tied the game at 2-2 with his 7th goal of the tournament. Aaron Berisha was credited with the only assist on Dvorak’s wrist shot goal at 15:49 of the 3rd.
Tied after sixty minutes of regulation, the London Knights and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies went to overtime in the 98th Memorial Cup. Over the course of the entire QMJHL season, the Huskies only lost nine games in regulation. Meanwhile the Knights had not lost in any game (Memorial Cup or OHL— regular season and playoff) since the last week of the NHL’s regular season.
Early in overtime the Knights and Huskies exchanged quick transitions and a couple of shots that rang the post and squibbed through the crease.
But it wasn’t until 7:49 into overtime that Tkachuk fired the game winner, his second of the night and 5th of the Memorial Cup. Aiden Jamieson and Olli Juolevi were awarded the assists on the goal and the London Knights defeated the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies by a score of 3-2.
London outshot Rouyn-Noranda 33-31, but trailed in faceoff wins 32-31 at the end of the day. The Huskies finished 0/1 on the power play on the afternoon and the Knights went 0/5.
Sunday was the first time in 30 years that the OHL and QMJHL champions met up in the Memorial Cup Final on WHL ice, as the host city Red Deer Rebels bowed out to Rouyn-Noranda on Friday in a 3-1 loss. The last time an OHL/QMJHL matchup on WHL ice occurred in 1986, the Guelph Platers defeated the Hull Olympiques, 6-2, in Portland, Oregon.
The Knights won their 17th game in a row, including all their games prior to Sunday and finished 2-0 against the Huskies in the tournament, having defeated Rouyn-Noranda 5-2 in this year’s round robin action. London also outscored their opponents 23-7 in the entire Memorial Cup, en route to capturing just their second CHL title— and first since 2005.
The Knights avenged the ghosts of their 2012, 2013 and 2014 Memorial Cup appearances with Sunday’s Memorial Cup title. As mentioned before, Toronto Maple Leaf’s prospect, Mitch Marner was awarded the Stafford Smyth Memorial Trophy as the MVP of the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Several talented Junior players await to be drafted at this June’s NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo at First Niagara Center. We’ll have more of an outlook for all seven rounds as the weekend of June 24th and 25th nears right here on Down the Frozen River, including another rendition of a mock draft or two of Round 1. For now, though, another CHL season is in the books and the London Knights are on top of the Junior world (well at least in North America).