It was a long-weekend in Canada, but you could forgive the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup host London Knights if they didn’t feel in the mood for celebrating. In fact, a noted lack of fireworks so far has left London with a very real risk of being relegated to the role of gracious host as opposed to conquering heroes in front of their 8,900-plus fans at the Budweiser Gardens.
With two convincing wins in its first two games, the Guelph Storm has not only already punched its ticket into the Memorial Cup final, but it’s set up to deliver the knock-out blow to London’s slim remaining championship hopes as the OHL West Division rivals meet in the final game of the round-robin on Wednesday.
The Val d’Or Foreurs and the Edmonton Oil Kings both have won one (against London), and lost one (against Guelph) and find themselves tied, though the Foreurs may have suffered a crushing loss when high-scoring defender Guillaume Gelinas suffered a knee-on-knee hit and woefully inched his way along the ice on all fours. He left the ice without being able to put any weight on his injured leg.
The Storm has been led by Kerby Rychel and Tyler Bertuzzi, both of whom have accumulated three goals in the team’s opening two victories, a 5-2 win over Edmonton on Saturday and a Victoria Day 6-3 shellacking of Val d’Or, which was not as close as the score made it seem.
The Foreurs were led by a 51-save performance by netminder Antoine Bibeau in the tournament opener — a 1-0 shutout of the Knights — but he was hung out to dry by his squad in its second game. After facing 87 shots in just five periods, the club had mercy on the young netminder and sat him on the bench during the third period of the Guelph game.
Edmonton has been paced by two goals apiece from Edgars Kulda and Luke Bertolucci and saw its star netminder, Tristan Jarry, rebound after a disappointing performance against Guelph in which he surrendered five goals.
The Knights, who had been out of action for over a month, opened the tournament hosting, arguably, the most tired team in the tournament, the Foreurs, who came into the tournament after a gruelling seven-game QMJHL finale against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Anthony Mantha, scored the lone goal and has looked dangerous throughout this tournament. The Knights have yet to receive a goal from its vaunted forward group, which includes NHL first rounders Max Domi and Bo Horvat.
Moving forward, one team will guarantee itself a spot in the semi-finals tomorrow as the Oil Kings and Foreurs face off. On Wednesday, the Knights will have to take advantage of its sweetheart schedule against the dangerous Storm if it wants to have a chance to continue in the tournament.
As per Memorial Cup rules, if two teams are tied for the final position, then they have to engage in a one-game playoff, with the team that won the round-robin match earning the right to be the home team. London must beat the Guelph to face the loser of Tuesday’s Edmonton/Val d’Or match.
But so far in this MasterCard Memorial Cup, there have been plenty of Storm clouds a-brewing in the Forest City and Guelph would love nothing more than to rain on London’s parade.
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