Early goals lift London over Edmonton at Memorial Cup
It was textbook London Knights hockey and it was too much for the under-performing Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Knights (2-1) got an early lead on goals from Ryan Rupert and Bo Horvat and then shut down the Oil Kings(1-2) with solid defensive play and shot blocking for a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night in the final round robin game for both teams at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
"I don't know if it was textbook, but it was on the right track," said defenceman Scott Harrington. "We got away from it a little last game [a 6-2 loss to Shawinigan].
"We played better this time. Guys were more committed to blocking shots and getting pucks deep and not turning pucks over. That's part of London Knights hockey and that helped us win."
Greg McKegg also scored and Austin Watson added an empty-net goal for London, which outshot Edmonton 28-21 and held them to 0-for-6 on the power play.
Keegan Lowe scored for the Western Hockey League champion Oil Kings, who were coming off a 5-2 loss to the defending champion Saint John Sea Dogs on Monday.
There wasn't a lot of atmosphere with London closing down the flow after taking the lead and with neither Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team playing. The dullest game to date drew the lowest attendance yet with 3,955 at the Bionest Centre.
And the liveliest talk post-game was about a nasty-looking hit by London sniper Vladislav Namestnikov on Klarc Wilson. The Russian appeared to leave his feet as he delivered an open ice, elbow-first hit to the head of the Edmonton forward.
No penalty was called. Wilson was shaken up, but returned to the game. A tournament spokesman said it will probably be reviewed by the disciplinary committee. If so, a decision on a suspension or any other penalty should be announced Wednesday.
Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal called it "a predatory hit to the head.
"I expect it to be reviewed. When a player's reaching for the puck, leaning, and a player lunges. . . but that's out of my hands. I can't make that call."
Knights coach Mark Hunter disagreed that it was predatory.
"I'll give the Pete DeBoer line -- I think it's comical," said Hunter, quoting the New Jersey Devils' coach. "He's never had a suspension. He's never done anything close to being in position to hurt somebody. What I saw was shoulder to shoulder. It was a clean hit to me."
Namestnikov also felt the hit was legal, but Wilson said it was "an elbow to the side of my head. My jaw's a little sore.
"I watched a replay. Everyone says it was a dirty hit and he left his feet. That's what we're cracking down on now in hockey. We want to get rid of that stuff. I was leaning forward and he followed through with it. That stuff happens, but we'll see what the outcome is."
With the win, the Knights can take first place and get a bye to the final if the Saint John Sea Dogs (1-1) beat the host Shawinigan Cataractes (1-1) in the last round robin game on Wednesday night. If the Cataractes win, they will take top spot because they won their game against London.
Edmonton now must play in the tiebreaker game on Thursday between the Sea Dogs-Cataractes loser.
They will do so feeling that they have yet to play near the level they were at in winning the WHL title.
"It stings," said Lowe. "Now we've got to play an extra game or two. But the goal is still in sight. It's still reachable."
Laxdal called out all of his forwards other than the line of Henrik Samuelsson, Curtis Lazar, Stephane Legault, who have been their best in each game.
"We're not even close," Laxdal said. "Our kids are in awe, just looking around. But we've got another game to stay alive and we've got to bring our best game on Thursday night.
"We've got to do a better job of showing who we are and representing the Western Hockey League. We can't play with one line. We need the other nine forwards to step up and join the parade."
For a second game in a row, Edmonton's Laurent Brossoit let in an early goal, this time on the first shot of the game at 1:17 as Matt Rupert picked off a Griffin Reinhart pass and fed his brother Ryan in front for a shot that trickled between the pads.
Horvat, back in the lineup after sitting one out, followed in on a rush to fire in a rebound at 12:22.
The Knights killed off a long two-man advantage late in the period, but with only three seconds left, Lowe joined a rush and was left alone to take a Samuelsson feed and beat Michael Houser from the doorstep.
Neither team was able to generate chances for most of the second period, as only three shots were taken in the first 10 minutes, until one quick flurry when Edmonton's Mitchell Monoz hit a goalpost and, on a rush to the other end, low-scoring McKegg scored on a Max Domi rebound.