SHAWINIGAN, QC– In the second installment of MasterCard Memorial Cup round robin action, the Saint John Sea Dogs did not play like the team that took home Memorial Cup honours last year, or even the team that won it all in the QMJHL this year. It has to be said, of course, that their only challenge was overcoming a 5-4 overtime loss against the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the league semi-finals, but they did not appear fully prepared for the OHL champion London Knights, who went home Saturday night 1-0 in the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup after beating the Sea Dogs 5-3.
Only 16 seconds into the game, Saint John captain and Florida Panthers’ 2011 1st rounder Jonathan Huberdeau went to the penalty box for elbowing. However, his team’s penalty-killers got the best of London’s attack and a Charles-Olivier Roussel slapshot found its way into the net for the first goal of the game. Huberdeau tried to avenge his penalty some time later, but London goaltender Michael Houser was up to the task.
Jarred Tinordi had a large part in snuffing out the Sea Dogs’ generated offense, and was rewarded with a +1 when Max Domi tied the game at 14:11 of the first. Soon afterwards, Vladimir Namestikov tapped in a wild deflection for a 2-1 Knights’ lead. Tinordi found himself in the penalty box with 27.9 seconds remaining in the opening frame for hooking down Huberdeau, which translated into an opportunity for fellow Habs’ prospect Nathan Beaulieu to try and even the score once again, but the end-to-end play he tried to generate on his own, with time winding down, ended with the puck in Houser’s possession.
In the second period, Saint John’s struggles continued. London forward Seth Griffith found himself in front of the net, and eventually the prime benefactor of a scramble play that ended up behind Mathieu Corbeil for a two-goal Knights’ lead. With 2:27 remaining in the period, Danick Gauthier took a penalty that once again mistakenly wound up benefiting his own team. Jonathan Huberdeau was credited with a shorthanded marker, the Sea Dogs’ second of the game, and the score heading into the second intermission was 3-2 Knights.
They would have to wait until 10:49 of the third to restore their two-goal margin, as Austin Watson made his way in front of the net and tapped home a Ryan Rupert pass. The Sea Dogs would counter on their own power play this time, as Ryan Tesink deflected a Charles-Olivier Roussel shot. The play went up for review, but was not ruled to have a high stick and the Knights once again had to operate with only a one-goal lead. However, the Sea Dogs’ frustrations would culminate to their end, as Jonathan Huberdeau fell victim to London’s Rupert brothers, awarding himself a four-minute roughing time-out with 2:04 left in the game. Gerard Gallant took a bench minor and the London Knights suddenly found themselves with a 5-on-3 opportunity that saw Namestikov score his second goal of the game with less than a minute remaining.
With one (fairly important) win in the bank, London’s task is to remain grounded. “No celebrations right now, it’s still early in the tournament,” Tinordi, who finished +3, said after the game. ” We have a big game tomorrow, we’ll concentrate on that.” The Knights will next face the host Shawinigan Cataractes on Sunday night at 7 p.m. For their part, Saint John will try to beat the Edmonton Oil Kings on Monday, also getting underway at 7 p.m.