Knights win Memorial Cup

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The London Knights defeated the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-2 in the first overtime period to win the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup. Photo by Rob Wallator / CHL Images

Eleven years to the day of their first title, the London Knights have returned to junior hockey’s summit.

Matthew Tkachuk’s snipe at the 7:49 mark of overtime on Sunday afternoon was the difference as the Knights defeated the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies by a score of 3-2 in the final game of 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer.

 “As soon as it went in I thought ‘There is no way that this is happening,’” Tkachuk said. “When I saw the goalie (Chase Marchand) look up I pretty much fell over myself.”

“It’s a special feeling to win this. There’s 60 teams (in the Canadian Hockey League) and we’re the champions.”

The Knights completed one of the most dominant runs in recent memories to capture their second Memorial Cup. Following a loss in Game 5 of their opening round playoff series to the Owen Sound Attack, the Ontario Hockey League champions rattled off 17 straight wins.

“That Owen Sound series really woke us up,” Knights forward and tournament MVP Mitch Marner said. “After that, we started to play our game again and we really felt like we could win anything.

“Right from the start of the season we all really believed in each other. It’s been an amazing year and I’ve never played with a better group of guys than I have with this team.”

The Knights nearly saw their remarkable run come to an end in regulation. They were 0-for-7 on the power-play and found themselves down 2-1 with less than five minutes to go.

Christian Dvorak, who is a co-captain on the Knights with Marner, came up huge when his team needed him the most as he tied things up with 4:11 left in the third period.

“I’m not going to lie, it was nerve-wracking there for a little bit when the game was tied,” Tkachuk said. “We had a feeling though that goal would be coming and we knew a guy like Christian was going to step up.”

The final was highlighted by a sublime goaltending duel between Marchand and Tyler Parsons. Parsons turned aside 29 shots while Marchand had 30 saves in the loss.

“It was back and forth right from the start between us,” Parsons said. “Their goalie was playing great out there.

“Rouyn-Noranda’s a great team and they were the hardest team that we have faced all tournament.”

Offensively, Tkachuk had a pair of goals to lead the way for the Knights while Dvorak had a goal and an assist.

Julien Nantel and Francis Perron both scored for the Huskies, who had a gorgeous opportunity to take a two goal lead with 4:40 to go when Perron received a feed in the slot from Timo Meier but shot the puck over the net.

“Obviously it’s tough to lose like that but I’m really proud of this group and how we played,” Meier said.

“Today didn’t go our way but it’s been such a fun ride. We made history by winning the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) title for the first time and we’re all lucky to have such a great opportunity like we have had here.”

— With files from Brad Coccimiglio


Huskies heading to the final

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Huskies goaltender Chase Marchand makes a glove save with Rebels’ Jake Debrusk (19) on the doorstep and Huskies defender Allan Caron (21) defending as the Red Deer Rebels lose 3-1 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the MasterCard Memorial Cup semifinal at the ENMAX Centrium on Friday May 27, 2016 in Red Deer, Alta. Britton Ledingham/Airdrie Echo/Postmedia Network

Prior to the national anthem at every game at the ENMAX Centrium, the Red Deer Rebels fans tell the opposing goalie what they think of him.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies goaltender Chase Marchand claims that he’s heard the ‘Marchand Sucks’ chant a bit differently.

“I thought they were saying Marchand Rocks,” the 20-year-old netminder smiled.

After a couple of sub-par outings by his standards, Marchand played his best game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup on Friday night in Red Deer as he made 36 saves to help the Huskies defeat the host Rebels by a score of 3-1 in the semifinal and earn a berth in Sunday’s final against the London Knights.

“Personally I felt like I played great and the entire team in front of me was a big help with that,” Marchand said. “The most important thing is that we were putting our bodies on the line and winning the battles out there. We’re pretty tough to beat when we play like that.”

“Chase challenged the puck carriers tonight and he was very calm out there,” Huskies head coach and general manager Gilles Bouchard added.  “He never gave up in his crease and the compete level was the same as what we’ve seen from him all year.”

Huskies captain Francis Perron was a key force up front for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions. The league’s regular season and playoff MVP has a goal and an assist to lead the way on offence.

“It was a great feeling to finally get that first goal of the tournament tonight,” Perron said. “I was getting chances throughout the week but I was working hard so it wasn’t really bothering me a whole lot that I wasn’t scoring.

“We’re a team that learns from our mistakes. Throughout the first and the second periods we talked about making sure we kept things going and didn’t back down like we did when we lost to Red Deer in the round-robin after having a 2-0 lead.”

Martins Dzierkals and Nikolas Brouillard also scored for the Huskies while Timo Meier had a pair of assists.

Having come from behind twice already this week, the Rebels got on the board in the second period when captain Luke Philp found the back of the net.

The Rebels continued to pressure Marchand throughout the final frame, with the two best chances coming on shorthanded opportunities by Adam Musil, but they were unable to close the gap.

“We came out strong in the third period but it was those early mistakes that cost us,” Rebels forward Adam Helewka said. “We had a number of chances but their goalie was standing on his head and we couldn’t put it in the back of the net.”

“It’s really disappointing right now,” Philp added. “We have a great group of guys in this room and it’s been an honour to play for this team. The support we got this week from our fans was incredible and we have nothing but love for them.”

Having won their first ever QMJHL title earlier this month, the Huskies now have a chance to win their first ever Memorial Cup on Sunday afternoon

Awaiting them is a dominant Knights team that have outscored their opponents 20-5 in round-robin play and features the most dominant offensive trio in the country in Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk.

In the round-robin, the Huskies had the closest game with the Ontario Hockey League champions as they lost 5-2 on Tuesday night.

“I think we gave them a good game when it was five-on-five,” Perron said. “I think it was only for 15 minutes though that the game was like that though.

“If we stay out of the penalty box I think we can play with them. We had a fair number of chances against them in the round-robin so we are feeling confident.”

The Knights previously won the Memorial Cup in 2005 over the Rimouski Oceanic. They lost in overtime to the Shawinigan Cataractes in 2012.


Marchand enjoying career season with Huskies

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Rouyn-Noranda Huskies netminder Chase Marchand moved into position as London Knights forward Mitch Marner looked to take a shot on him at the Memorial Cup on Tuesday night. CHL Images

The road to the Memorial Cup was a wild one for Rouyn-Noranda Huskies overage goaltender Chase Marchand.

After playing for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the Victoriaville Tigres over the past two years, not to mention a brief stint in the Ontario Hockey League with the Mississauga Steelheads, the Upper Tantallon, N.S. native was on waivers to begin the 2015-16 campaign.

Once the Huskies picked him up in September, the 20-year-old has been a key factor in the Huskies best season in franchise history.

“We knew he had good stats in the past (with Victoriaville) but we didn’t know what would happen when he joined us,” Huskies head coach and general manager Gilles Bouchard said. “As we went through September and October, however, he continued to have strong performances.

“He’s been very consistent and in every practice he competes hard. He’s a great kid and we’re all very happy for his success this year. It’s been an incredible story.”

After putting up a 2.42 goals against average with 29-6-1 record in the regular season to win the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy as QMJHL goaltender of the year, Marchand was even better in the playoffs.

He went 15-3 rand set new league records with a 1.35 goals against average and six shutouts to help the Huskies win their first ever QMJHL championship.

Despite his incredible run, Marchand is quick to give much of the credit to his teammates.

“I’ve been playing well but it’s a combination of what everyone is doing out here,” Marchand said. “Our slogan this year is ‘United for History’ and we can’t do anything by ourselves. I can’t stop the puck by myself, it takes all six guys on the ice.

“We have a really strong team here and it’s always nice to have the guys playing as well as they have been. They can make things easy for me sometimes when they are playing as good as they have been.”

Marchand also says that much of his success this year comes from the guidance of goaltender coach Joey Perricone.

The former Moose Jaw Warriors netminder, who led the team to their only Western Hockey League final in 2006, has been with the Huskies for the last two seasons.

“I love Joey,” Marchand said. “He’s worked with me non-stop throughout the course of the season on whatever I need to do to become better.

“He’s not a goalie coach who puts pressure on you. He’s your friend first and a goalie coach second. That’s a huge help as you know you have somebody who’s not trying to just win games but that wants to help you become a better player and a person”

Perricone’s main focus with Marchand at the start of the season was to give him a feeling of stability after being bounced around to a number of teams over the last few years.

“When Chase arrived here he was coming to a good opportunity with a chance to step up into a big role,” Perricone said.

“Honestly with (18-year-old) Samuel Harvey already here we expected them to have a good fight for the job. They went back and forth all year but Chase’s experience started to pay off and as his confidence grew, he was able to hold on to that job.”

Heading into Friday’s Memorial Cup semifinal game against the host Red Deer Rebels, Marchand has a 1-2 record with a 4.02 goals against average.

While his numbers aren’t as strong as they have been in recent weeks, both Perricone and Huskies assistant coach Jason Fortier believe that the best performances for both Marchand and the team are still to come.

“Chase is a very determined player and he has that experience factor,” Fortier said. “When something doesn’t go well he goes back out there and bounces right back. That’s something we’ve seen out of him numerous times this season.

“We’ve been talking as a staff and we don’t think we’ve played our best team game as of yet,” Perricone added. “We’ve played in spurts. We’ve had good moments along the way but we’ve also had some tough periods.”

The winner of Friday’s semifinal will take on the London Knights in the final on Sunday at the ENMAX Centrium.


Rebels knockout Wheat Kings

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Evan Polei of the Red Deer Rebels blasted a shot by Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Jordan Papirny in overtime on Wednesday as the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer. CHL Images

Many thought that the Brandon Wheat Kings would win their first ever Memorial Cup this year.

Instead, the Western Hockey League champions won’t even get a chance to play on the weekend.

Evan Polei’s game-winning goal at the 3:50 mark of overtime gave the Red Deer Rebels a 2-1 win in the final round-robin game of the tournament at the ENMAX Centrium and left the Wheat Kings out of the playoffs with a 0-3 record.

“You go from being on such a high from winning the league about a week ago and we come here and lose three straight,” Wheat Kings defenceman Kale Clague said.

“It’s a bad feeling but I think we’re all going to look back on the positives from this season. We’ve had a great year here and it’s a team that we all never forget being a part of.”

While the Wheat Kings were left wondering what could have been, Polei was dealing with being surrounded by a swarm of media for the first time in his career.

“I’ve never had this before,” Polei said while his teammate Haydn Fleury smiled and waved at him from the other side of the scrum.

“It’s an amazing and a surreal moment. It’s my first ever overtime goal and it’s easily the biggest of my career.”

Polei’s game-winning goal came as a result of a steal in the offensive zone by Conner Bleackley as he swiped the puck away from Wheat Kings forward Duncan Campbell.

Bleackley took a couple of strides and fed the puck over to Polei who roofed it over netminder Jordan Papirny.

“To be honest, I thought he was going to shoot it,” Polei said. “If I saw Conner wide open like I was though I probably would pass it to him too.

“I had a couple of chances earlier in the game that I didn’t score on so I thought I better pass it over this time,” Bleackley added. “The puck bobbled a couple of times and I think it hit my foot twice but I knew I had a lefty there on the other side. I waited a second to get Papirny out of position and Evan did a great job in putting it upstairs.”

In a tightly-contested affair with a tense atmosphere, the Wheat Kings got on the scoreboard midway through the second period when Tim McGauley took advantage of a Colton Bobyk turnover and roofed a wrist shot over Rebels goaltender Rylan Toth.

After pressing all third period for the equalizer, the Rebels knotted things up with 5:05 to go in regulation. Adam Musil pounced on a loose puck that ended up in the slot and slid it through the five-hole of Papirny.

“I thought we did a much better job focussing on the little details tonight,” Clague said. “We had a number of chances to go up 2-0 and we allowed a tough goal to let them tie it.

“It was a tough way to go out but it was a much better effort from us.”

The Wheat Kings were without the services of centre Jayce Hawryluk on Wednesday. When asked after the game why he was not in the lineup, Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon simply shook his head.

The Rebels (2-1) will now prepare to face the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1-2) in Friday’s semifinal. Red Deer won the round-robin contest by a score of 5-2 on Sunday.

“The Huskies play a real fast game,” Bleackley said. “Outside of the first 10 minutes (where the Rebels allowed two goals) I thought we played very well against them.

“We don’t need to do anything new or come up with a magic formula. If we stick to our style of game, I think we will be successful.”

The winner of Friday’s contest will face the London Knights in the final on Sunday afternoon.

 


Knights clinch berth in final

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London Knights goaltender Tyler Parsons made a glove save during his team’s 5-2 win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Tuesday night at the Memorial Cup in Red Deer. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The London Knights are one win away from their second Memorial Cup championship.

The Knights wrapped up a perfect 3-0 round-robin with a 5-2 win over the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Tuesday night at the ENMAX Centrium in Red Deer and have clinched a spot in Sunday’s championship game.

“It feels good,” Knights head coach and general manager Dale Hunter. “The kids really worked hard tonight. They paid the price, blocked a lot of shots and they deserved the win.”

“It’s great to get into the final no matter how you do it and tonight we were ready to do anything,” Knights goaltender Tyler Parsons added. “It’ll be good for us to have a couple of days off here but we’ll be back to practice here soon and we will be ready to go on Sunday.”

This marks the second time the Knights have finished in first in the round-robin and earned a bye to the final.

In 2005 they won over the Rimouski Oceanic by a score of 4-0 but lost in overtime 2-1 to the Shawinigan Cataractes in 2012.

“I don’t have anything really planned yet with the break,” Hunter said. “We’ll definitely have a day off tomorrow for the guys and we will go from there.

“I think we might be taking a trip to Banff so that will be pretty cool,” Parsons added. “We’ve been doing a lot of team events and that’s huge for us as we take some time off heading into Sunday.”

Knights star forward Mitch Marner continues his assault on the Memorial Cup scoring charts with a four-assist night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect has 11 assists and 13 points so far in the tournament. He’s two assists off of the all-time record set by Dan Hodgson of the Prince Albert Raiders in 1985 and three points away from tying the tournament point record that is shared by Jeff Larmer (Kitchener Rangers – 1982) and Guy Rouleau (Hull Olympiques – 1986).

Marner’s linemate Matthew Tkachuk had two goals and an assist in the win while Christian Dvorak and JJ Piccinich had a goal and an assist. Dvorak now has six goals for the week and is two off the all-time record that is shared by Dale Hawerchuk (Cornwall Royals – 1981), Luc Robitaille (Hull Olympiques – 1986) and Pat Falloon (Spokane Chiefs – 1991).

Max Jones had the other goal for the Knights.

“We played awesome tonight,” Tkachuk said. “We were really good defensively and our penalty kill was really great.

“There were a lot of penalties tonight so it was tough to find a rhythm, especially for guys like me who don’t play on the penalty kill. You don’t want to get cold legs so it’s really important to have a good first shift when you get back into the game.”

Goaltender Tyler Parsons earned first star honours for the Knights. The 2016 NHL Draft prospect turned aside 30 shots and made a number of big saves to help his team hold off a late charge by the Huskies.

“The Q has a lot of fast players and that’s the fastest team that we’ve played so far,” Parsons said. “Our defence contained them really well and our forwards were coming back on the back-check huge tonight.”

“Tyler’s been huge for us all playoffs,” Tkachuk added. “He’s one of those guys that you can really depend on.”

Timo Meier scored both goals and Antoine Waked had a pair of helpers for the Huskies, who finished the round-robin with a 1-2 record.

“This morning I told you (the media) how important it was for us to play a better game tonight,” Huskies head coach and general manager Gilles Bouchard said. “Tonight we played the Huskies game.

“I thought five-on-five we did a lot of good things and I’m really proud of how we competed .”

The Huskies are now waiting to see when they will play next as it will all depend on the result of the final round-robin game on Wednesday night between the Red Deer Rebels (1-1) and the Brandon Wheat Kings (0-2).

A Red Deer win would set up a semifinal clash between the Rebels and Huskies, while the Wheat Kings will be knocked out of the tournament.

If Brandon wins, the Huskies will play in the tiebreaker game. The Wheat Kings will be in that contest on Thursday unless the beat the Rebels by three or more goals.


2018 Memorial Cup to have national bid process

Branch David all commish

The opportunity to host the 100th Memorial Cup will be open to every team in the Canadian Hockey League.

During a media scrum at the MasterCard Memorial Cup on Tuesday evening in Red Deer, CHL president and Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch confirmed that the 2018 tournament will break from the usual league rotation.

“The one thing that we have resolved is that it will go to a national bid process,” Branch said.  

“We’re working on finalizing details on how the various teams will be scrutinized and filtered through to the top six or thereabouts for consideration.”

Branch also said that further details about the 2018 tournament will be worked out during a CHL board meeting in June between himself, Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League commissioner Gilles Courteau and other important CHL officials.

“In fact Ron, Gilles and I have been spending a lot of time here working through some reports with some our stuff on how we should best consider putting the pieces together for it,” Branch said. “That’s a big and exciting opportunity for sure.”

So far, the Hamilton Bulldogs, Oshawa Generals and Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets have all publically expressed interest in hosting the event.

Branch also said that the CHL will return the Memorial Cup to it’s inter-league rotation in 2019 with a QMJHL team hosting the tournament.

The 2017 Memorial Cup will be held in Windsor, Ontario.


Knights demolish Wheat Kings

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London Knights forward Cliff Pu celebrated after scoring in the first period against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Monday night at the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer. Lucas Punkari/Moose Jaw Times-Herald

 

The most anticipated matchup of the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup turned into a laugher on Monday night in Red Deer.

A four-goal first period set the tone for the rest of the evening for the London Knights as the Ontario Hockey League champions destroyed the Brandon Wheat Kings by a score of 9-1.

“I think we played our game today,” Knights centre Cliff Pu said. “We used our speed, played on the cycle and obviously we were rewarded on the scoresheet for it.

“We’re just looking to keep playing our game and get another win.”

The Knights (2-0) were once again paced by their top line. Christian Dvorak had a hat-trick and an assist, Mitch Marner had four helpers and Matthew Tkachuk had a goal and an assist each.

London’s offence wasn’t just confined to their talented trio though. Pu had a goal and two assists while his line-mates Max Jones and Aaron Berisha had a goal and an assist each.

“I might be biased but our top line is probably the best in all of junior hockey,” Pu said. “Every team needs secondary scoring and we were happy to chip in.

“We all played well in the last game (against Red Deer) but we just didn’t bury our chances. We were a little luckier today and we started to gain a lot more confidence.”

Daniel Bernhardt and JJ Piccinich also scored for the Knights, who once again used brilliant puck movement to go four-for-eight on the man advantage.

“We have a lot of options out there,” Dvorak said. “I think that’s a major challenge for other teams as you can’t really key in on just one guy.”

Stelio Mattheos scored in the second period for Brandon’s only goal of the night. The Wheat Kings actually outshot the Knights 36-31, but that was helped by a third period where London had already taken their foot off of the gas pedal.

With the loss, the Western Hockey League champions are now at 0-2 and need a win on Wednesday over the host Red Deer Rebels (1-1) just to force a tiebreaker game.

“That was not our best effort at all,” Wheat Kings defenceman and captain Macoy Erkamps said. “That was embarrassing.

“We weren’t ready to go. We weren’t moving our feet, we had too many turnovers and it showed on the scoreboard.”

While the Wheat Kings have their backs against the wall, the Knights can clinch their third Memorial Cup final appearance in team history on Tuesday night if they can beat the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1-1).

“Our goal coming into the round-robin was to go 3-0,” Pu said. “We’re two-thirds of the way there and if we keep playing our game I think we will be fine.

“Rouyn-Noranda is a fast team and we can’t make mistakes against them. They have four fast lines and six fast defencemen that are ready to pounce when you turn the puck over.”

In an odd occurrence, both backup goalies made cameo appearances in the game.

Logan Thompson came on in relief for Wheat Kings starter Jordan Papirny and made three saves on five shots in the third period.

The Knights swapped Tyler Parsons for backup Brendan Burke midway through the final frame. The overage netminder, who was at the 2013 Memorial Cup with the Portland Winterhawks, stopped all 11 shots he faced.

 


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