Benn's 4 goals push Kelowna into Memorial Cup final
Red-hot Jamie Benn and the Kelowna Rockets are on their way to junior hockey's Memorial Cup final.
The Dallas Stars prospect had four goals and an assist as the Rockets scored three times in the third period to defeat the Drummondville Voltigeurs 6-4 on Monday night in Rimouski, Que.
The Rockets (2-0) clinched first place in the four-team tournament and an automatic berth in the final on Sunday. They end round-robin play Tuesday night against the 0-2 Windsor Spitfires.
"It's funny how it works that we're already there, but we can't let down," Rockets coach Ryan Huska said. "We have to enjoy this and then get ready to play a team that is desperate."
Benn had a goal and two assists in Kelowna's tournament-opening 4-1 win over the Rimouski Oceanic on Friday and stepped up the pace even more against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league champion Voltigeurs.
The Victoria native scored twice at even strength, once short-handed and once on the power play, and also set up the first of two goals by Cody Almond.
With the Drummondville net empty in the dying seconds, Benn fired the puck down the ice only to hit the goalpost. Had it gone in, five goals would have tied a single-game Memorial Cup record set in 1975 by Bruce Boudreau, then with the Toronto Marlboros and now head coach of the Washington Capitals.
"I didn't really know about it until after the game, but that's not really on my mind," Benn said. "We just want to win.
"Getting on a roll helps, but it's not only me. My teammates help me out a lot."
Tyler Myers, the Rockets' towering defenceman, said Benn "had an amazing game — it's too bad to see that puck pop out at the end."
The Voltigeurs (1-1) will play the Oceanic (1-1) on Wednesday night with second place on the line.
Voltigeurs had lead in 3rd
Drummondville took a 4-3 lead at 7:23 of the third period when Marc-Olivier Vachon banked in his second of the game on the power play, but a hooking call against Philippe Lefebvre opened the door for Benn to slam in Mikael Backlund's pass to tie it at 9:26.
Benn skated in and sneaked a shot between a weak Marco Cousineau's pad for the game-winner at 11:41, while Almond got an insurance goal with 1:31 left to play.
"Both teams play a similar style — taking space away in the neutral zone," Volts coach Guy Boucher said. "We both live off turnovers, and that's how they won — they were a bit better at it.
"The fourth goal we got was big for us, but the penalty we took hurt us. We had momentum going in to the last 10 minutes and we gave it up."
Kelowna will play in its fourth final, but it will be a fifth for Huska. He played in three with the Kamloops Blazers and was assistant coach when Kelowna won in 2004. He is 4-0 in Memorial Cup finals.
Colin Long and Tyson Barrie each had three assists for the Western Hockey League champions.
Yannick Riendeau had a four-point night for Drummondville, scoring once and assisting both of Vachon's goals and another from defenceman Marc-Antoine Desnoyers.
The Rockets got an early break in front of the Colisee crowd of 4,225 when Dmitry Kulikov, slated to be a high pick in next month's NHL draft, lost the puck off his stick at centre ice on a rush. Long poked it to Benn, who went in on a short-handed breakaway and stuffed the puck under Cousineau's pad 4:02 into the game.
Riendeau, the Quebec league scoring champion, saw his bad-angled shot go in off goalie Mark Guggenberger's skate to tie it at 14:27 and then fed a cross-ice pass for Vachon to convert on Drummondville's third power play of the period at 17:10.
Kulikov was the victim again as he was beaten on a rush by Benn, who fed cross-ice to Almond for a one-time shot that left Cousineau no chance at 9:09 of the second frame.
Only 38 seconds later, Riendeau cut off a puck along the boards and fed Desnoyers at the point for a high shot that fooled Guggenberger.
With 1:13 left in the period, a three-way passing play from Myers to Long to Benn made it a 3-3 game going into the third.