|F Charlie Coyle (photo from T.J Colello/Cape Breton Post)|
Saint John matched their postseason loss total in their opening Memorial Cup game as the Sea Dogs were beaten by the OHL champion London Knights 5-3. Vladislav Namestnikov (Tampa Bay) scored twice for London and Michael Hauser made 22 saves in victory as Saint John looked sluggish and had their composure thrown off.
Charles-Oliver Roussel (Nashville Predators), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers) and Ryan Tesink scored for Saint John while Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle had an assist.
Penalties set the tone for Saint John early and often. It only took 16 seconds before Huberdeau was sent to the penalty box for an elbow that could lead to a second postseason suspension for the 3rd overall pick in 2011. Although Roussel scored shorthanded less than 90 seconds later to give the Sea Dogs an early 1-0 lead, three penalty kills in the first 12:25 zapped their energy.
The Knights responded with two goals by Max Domi and Nemestnikov 84 seconds apart to take a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period. They continued the offensive explosion in the second period while getting in the heads of Saint John as Seth Griffith found himself wide open to make it 3-1 London.
However, Huberdeau took a pass from Coyle and scored Saint John's second shorthanded goal of the night with 2:02 left in the 2nd period on a bounce that fooled Hauser to bring the defending Memorial Cup champions within one at 3-2.
That was as close as the Sea Dogs could get though. Every time they got within one, London would find a way to respond and keep them at bay. A lot of credit has to go to the Knights' penalty kill, which made the Saint John power play (coming into the Memorial Cup at a remarkable 28.2%) seem mortal killing 4 of 5 penalties. However, while defensemen like Jarred Tinordi (Montreal Canadiens) kept the star-studded QMJHL champs at bay they simply outworked the Sea Dogs.
A key example is London's fourth goal. Forward Ryan Rupert beat both Saint John defensemen to the puck behind the net, created a turnover and found Austin Watson (Nashville) wide open in front of the slot. It's a goal that was created through hard work and one that the defending Memorial Cup champions have to be kicking themselves.
It wasn't a great night for either Wild prospect either. Phillips finished the game pointless and was schooled on the third London goal. He had a few chances and spent most of the game shooting but wasn't able to get anything going with linemates Stanislav Galiev and Thomas Jurco.
Coyle, meanwhile, picked up an assist but didn't create much in terms of Huberdeau's goal. In fact, until Phillips was added to their line the two were shut down (especially by Tinordi) and out of sync. There was a chance in the second period where the two had a 2 on 1 advantage and it seemed like they each wanted to do separate things. Of course, that was how Jonathan's night went - a night trying to do everything and being thrown off his game was bookended by bad penalties - but it's not a performance the QMJHL MVP looked to be happy with.
What now will be interesting is how Saint John responds to their loss after playing like a team Saturday that was 13-0 when scoring the first goal in the postseason and knew it.
Saint John next plays Edmonton Monday at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be tape delayed on NHL Network and showed at 12 p.m. CT Tuesday afternoon.
-For a tournament that's hyped as Canada's Frozen Four, it's kind of sad to see the atmosphere in Shawinigan. Compared to a sold out NHL arena in a neutral site, watching junior hockey's best in an arena that only seats 4500 and had some empty seats seems off. Heck, Minnesota HS section games have bigger crowds.
-Another disappointing thing was the Centre Bionest ice. Whether it affected Saint John's game is up for debate but the puck was bouncing all over the place.
-The Sportsnet announcers stated that Saint John, made up of mostly 19 and 20 year-old players, could play as an AHL team. That might be a stretch but with four first round picks and two seconds they have talent.
-Mastercard is getting the most out of their naming rights deal. I don't think there was a time where anyone stated it was the Memorial Cup without mentioning the credit card company.
-On the same note, going from the NCAA Tournament, which is devoid of all advertisements, to the World Championships and Mastercard Memorial Cup is an 180 degree turn.
-Charlie Coyle on the power play brought some size and skating to the Sea Dogs that Minnesota had been missing for most of the season.