The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies capitalized on just one of their 10 power-play opportunities as they became the third team to fall to the undefeated London Knights in round robin play, Tuesday night.
In a game filled with penalties and four-on-four play, the Huskies held the Knights to their lowest goal total of the tournament, and out-shot the OHL champs 32-25, but were unable to come up with the goals they needed to win as London cruised to a 5-2 victory and clinch their place in the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup final on Sunday.
“It feels good. The kids really worked hard tonight and payed the price and blocked a lot of shots. They deserved the win,” said Knights’ Head Coach Dale Hunter after the game, which concluded late Tuesday night.
Strong defensive play and good forechecking allowed Rouyn-Noranda to hold London scoreless in the first five minutes of the game, even coming up with a number of good scoring chances on early power-play opportunities.
The penalties went both ways, though, and eventually London’s offense proved too much for the Huskies’ penalty kill.
“We played a better game, the Huskies game. At five on five we did a lot of good things tonight. I’m very proud of the way we competed tonight. For sure we got a lot of penalties but, you know what, I think for both teams we have to adjust ourselves with the referee standard. I think it’s one of the reasons we got penalties tonight,” said Huskies’ Coach Gilles Bouchard.
But the London Knights’ scoring machine would not be held in check for long, as at 6:06, with London on the power-play, JJ Piccinich potted his second of the tournament with assists coming from Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak.
London would add just one more goal in the first period, coming 10 minutes later on a Matthew Tkachuck deflection in front of Huskies’ goaltender Chase Marchand to make it 2-0 London heading into the second period. Marner and Olli Juolevi had assists on the goal.
Rouyn-Noranda bit back early in the second as star forward Timo Meier scored his fourth goal of the tournament on the power-play to cut London’s lead in half.
But a second period rally was not to be for the Huskies, as London goaltender Tyler Parsons stopped 11 of 12 shots directed his way in the middle frame and 30 of 32 overall to earn himself the first star honours.
“We came out hard and the Huskies played really well tonight. It was a back and forth game and both teams played great. It came down to who played better defensively tonight,” said Parsons after the game.
The dagger in the heart for the Huskies came late in the second period with London killing a penalty.
Once again it was Marner setting up the play as the speedy Toronto Maple Leafs’ draft pick got a hold of the puck in the offensive zone and made a pass that only he could make, threading the puck through two Huskies defenders and right onto the waiting stick of Max Jones, who snapped the puck into the wide open net to make it 3-1 Knights.
“My linemates have been awesome as well. The whole team played really well tonight and throughout the whole tournament. We’ve really stayed as a unit and it’s helped me a lot for sure,” said Marner, whose four assists on the evening put him at 13 total points through three games.
The third period was easily the Huskies’ best of the game, as the QMJHL champs controlled the pace of play for the majority of the final frame.
It wasn’t to be, though. Christian Dvorak scored his tournament-leading sixth goal of the week and despite a goal from Timo Meier midway through the third, the Huskies couldn’t quite slay the giant.
Because of the Huskies’ loss, a Red Deer Rebels win over the Brandon Wheat Kings would mean the host team moves on to the semi final game, which would be played against Rouyn-Noranda.