LONDON, Ont. – It began with the intensity of a playoff game and ended with the same result for the London Knights.
The Guelph Storm concluded the MasterCard Memorial Cup round-robin with a perfect 3-0 record with a 7-2 win over the host Knights, ending London’s season for the second time in six weeks. The Knights became the first host team to lose all three games in this tournament since the 2003 Quebec Remparts.
“It feels good to kind of turn the tables on them and give them a taste of what I’ve been dealing with over the past couple years,” Storm forward Jason Dickinson said. “It’s nice to go out there and really take it to them.”
The Knights’ three-year run ends without a national championship. They were runners up in Shawinigan, lost in last year’s semifinal and failed to win a game on home ice this time around.
“It sucks to lose,” three-year veteran Max Domi said. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and we just came up a little short. It’s tough. It’s really tough.”
Why the Storm won: With their finals berth already in their back pocket, the Storm made the most of the opportunity to eliminate a threat from coming back to haunt them by dispatching of the Knights. The Storm played with the same urgency as they had in the other two previous games and established a strong cycle and wall presence.
Their first goal less than six minutes in was a direct result of the cycle game creating the offensive opportunity that was put away by Scott Kosmachuk. Two Knights stood between Jason Dickinson and Tyler Bertuzzi on the wall and Dickinson simply chipped it high enough to get to Bertuzzi, who would score on the ensuing two on one.
Guelph won because they owned the wall, won the puck battles and cashed in on their opportunities.
“It comes down to detail,” Storm captain Matt Finn said. “You have to be willing to win the battles and off the cycle win every inch of the ice. In the playoffs and (at the MasterCard Memorial Cup), that’s when it really matters.”
Why the Knights lost: If only the Knights could be rewarded for effort, they may have had a better outcome. They outshot the Storm but their quality scoring chances were rarely converted. This was the highest scoring team in franchise history, but their top players weren’t able to chip in. Through three games, the Knights had just two goals from their forwards scored by Brett Welychka and Josh Anderson.
Max Domi, Chris Tierney, Bo Horvat and company never found their games tonight or in any other game. They hit a fair few posts and crossbars but when the Knights needed an offensive spark, their best players were nowhere to be found.
“It’s just hockey,” Domi said. “If you look at our shots I think we outshot a team every single game and it’s just a bad time to get cold for offence and for scoring goals. With the team we have and the effort we put in, it sucks and that’s part of the game, that’s sports and we’re just going to learn from it and move forward in our careers.”
The lack of offence was compounded by the fact that when they needed a timely save, they never got it. Stolarz kicked a rebound off the boards into his net on his final play of the game to give Guelph their third goal while Jake Patterson fared no better in the final 37 minutes.
Player of the Game: Tyler Bertuzzi is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now. An agitating presence, the nephew of Todd scored twice and ran the screen on the fifth goal for the Storm. His second goal, which gave the Storm a 4-2 lead, was the first nail in London’s coffin. He was booed lustily by Knights fans for rolling around in agony after Nikita Zadorov’s knee-on-knee hit.
“Every team needs a guy like that and he’s not only an agitator, he can put the puck in the net as you guys have seen all tournament,” Storm forward Scott Kosmachuk said.
Quote of the day: Zadorov was only assessed a two minute minor for an apparent knee-on-knee hit on Bertuzzi after Guelph forward Zack Mitchell had been given five and a game for a similar play earlier in the game. Asked what he thought of it, Guelph head coach Scott Walker said, “I think the ref thought Bertuzzi was smiling but he was actually grimacing. He got a pretty good bang there. It’s hard to decipher sometimes when Bert’s grimacing and smiling.”