MONTREAL, QC—The 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup was hoisted for the first time in victory by a pair of hands belonging to a Canadiens’ prospect: Michaël Bournival.
In an arena literally packed with people, with no visible stairs in the rink, the sounds of the near-deafening air horns rained down on the Centre Bionest as the two teams were evenly matched for the majority of the game until Shawinigan’s Anton Zlobin gave his team the win at 17:51 of overtime.
The beginning of the tournament featured much conversation about how the host Cataractes had a month off before May 18th’s puck drop. Tonight, talks were focused on their endurance having played four games in the last five days and the fact that London was the better-rested team this time around. The Knights would be the ones to strike first, as the Rupert brothers went to work on the forecheck and Matt found brother Ryan in front of Gabriel Girard to open the scoring in the first eight minutes of the first period. London had registered five shots on net by this point, having shut out their opponents in that department. The Cataractes, however, pressed on and were rewarded with a power play with just over six minutes left to go in the opening frame. They were unable to capitalize on it, let alone reach the net, and headed into their dressing room down by a goal (and outshot by nine).
The second period was kinder to the hosts. Zlobin sent the flurry of horns buzzing again with his fourth goal of the tournament as a bouncing puck found its way behind Knights’ goalie Michael Houser for 1-1. Morgan Ellis picked up an assist on the play. Then on the other end, Girard kept his team in the game with a point-blank save off of Matt Rupert, followed up almost immediately by an even flashier glove save on Seth Griffith, as London’s chances began to multiply. Michael Houser was also kept busy by the Shawinigan shooters, who made up for their earlier shot-clock deficit by getting to within four. Bournival even took the puck from between a London player’s legs for a chance that very nearly resulted in a lead in the dying moments of the second.
The two teams would trade several chances in the third, none of them leading to anything substantial. The Cataractes had sustained pressure in the Knights’ zone for about a minute in the final moments of regulation before London turned the play back and Jared Knight almost broke the tie. The play opened up as the seconds ticked off of the final minute as though both teams were fighting to avoid overtime, but despite one (very) final push by Austin Watson to try to bank the puck off Girard, it was to no avail.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair with several key saves and plays featuring both goaltenders, and it looked like extra time would continue for another period. But a savvy pass from Bournival stationed behind the net found a wide-open Zlobin who one-timed it behind Houser, and with that, the Shawinigan Cataractes won a national title for the first time in their history. The last time they got close enough, they lost in the finals to the Prince Albert Raiders… 27 years ago.
Opposing captain Jarred Tinordi was on the ice for the Zlobin goal, but true to the rest of the tournament, he was on the ice longer than most, if not all of the players on both sides. He was named to the MasterCard Memorial Cup All-Stars. Only three penalties were called throughout the course of the game, as the referees seemed to put their whistles in their pockets in the opening moments of the third period. Morgan Ellis was named second star of the game, behind his goaltender Gabriel Girard. Shawinigan ended up outshooting their opponents 37-36.