Anton Zlobin scored his second goal of the game 17:51 into overtime to lift the Shawinigan Cataractes to their first MasterCard Memorial Cup title with a 2-1 victory over the London Knights on Sunday night.
Zlobin took a pass from behind the net from captain Michael Bournival and drilled a quick shot that beat Knights goaltender Michael Houser and sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy. The Cataractes’ forward leapt into the air before he was mobbed by teammates on the ice.
Zlobin had tied the game in the second period after Ryan Rupert scored in the first for the Ontario Hockey League champion Knights.
It was the first overtime in nine tournament games and it came with Shawinigan playing a fourth game in five nights.
London was coming off a five-day break.
More than 5,000 fans were crammed into the 4,125-seat Bionest Centre, crowding into standing room and even sitting in the stairways, with air horns and Thunderstix adding to the din.
After the second period, the P.A. announcer reminded fans that air horns was ”restricted,” but the blaring went on just the same.
London had the better of the play for most of the game, keeping the Cataractes to the outside on defence and generating several chances at the other end, where Cataractes goaltender Gabriel Girard had a superb game.
Final shots were 36-35 for Shawinigan.
The Knights executed their trap and counterattack game to perfection, taking a 13-4 lead in shots in the opening period and scoring the first goal. Strong forechecking produced the chance, as Matt Rupert set up his twin brother Ryan from behind the net 5:42 into the game.
Shawinigan did not get a shot on goal in the opening 10 minutes.
The Cataractes picked up the tempo in the second period and tied the game when Kirill Kabanov’s shot went off Tommy Hughes’ stick to the crease for Zlobin to put in at 3:01.
There were glittering chances in a fast-paced third period, especially the Knights’ best unit of Austin Watson with the Rupert brothers, who failed to bury a handful of chances.
It was the first final to go to overtime since 2001, when Red Deer beat Val d’Or.
The Cararactes were among the founding members of the QMJHL in 1969 but never won the Memorial Cup. They reached the final in 1985, losing 6-1 to the Prince Albert Raiders. Shawinigan was the host team, but the final was moved to Drummondville because the old Jacques Plante Arena was considered inadequate for television.
Next year’s Memorial Cup will be in Saskatoon.
Notes: The co-presidents of honour of the tournament, Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur and president Geoff Molson, took part in pre-game ceremonies with ex-Canadiens Yvan Cournoyer… They got to see two teams with a Canadiens prospect as captain: Jarred Tinordi of the Knights and Bournival of the Cataractes.
May 27, 2012 9:19 AM ET
The London Knights and the host Shawinigan Cataractes will be coming from opposite directions when they collide in the final of the Mastercard Memorial Cup on Sunday night.
The Ontario Hockey League champion Knights have been off since Tuesday, as they clinched a bye to the final by finishing first in the round robin portion of the four-team tournament.
The host Cataractes took the long route, finishing last in the round robin but then winning the tiebreaker game against the Western Hockey League-winning Edmonton Oil Kings and dethroning the defending champion Saint John Sea Dogs in the semifinal.
The Knights (2-1) and Cataractes (3-2) will clash Sunday night in the final amid the clamour of the raucous Shawinigan fans at the Bionest Centre.
The question to be answered is whether the Knights have the advantage of being rested or the Cataractes are favoured for taking momentum into the decisive game.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” was all Cataractes defenceman Morgan Ellis would say.
The main advantage could be home ice, where a veteran Shawinigan side seems to feed off the deafening noise, which may be intimidating for a mostly younger London team.
“The buildings’ always really loud and it definitely helps,” said Shawinigan rearguard Brandon Gormley, the Phoenix Coyotes’ prospect who has been one of the stars of the tournament with nine points in five games.
The Cataractes also have confidence from having handed London its only loss of the tournament, a 6-2 thrashing on May 20 in which Gormley had two goals and an assist.
“We’ll have to play good defence and we need our forwards playing good sound hockey and our goalie playing well,” said Knights coach Mark Hunter.
The Knights have succeeded with a defence-first game and strong counterattacking from top forwards like Seth Griffith and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Their specialty is shot blocking, particularly from veteran centre Austin Watson, who is also their scoring leader thus far with four points in three games. and the top defence duo of Jarred Tinordi and Scott Harrington. Watson’s linemates, the pesky twins Matt and Ryan Rupert, should also be a factor.
A problem is that Shawinigan’s defence aces, Ellis and Gormley, have been particularly effective at getting shots through to the net for forwards to tip in or score on rebounds. Both prefer the well-placed wrist shot to the big slapper from the point.
“It’s so hard to score in today’s game,” Gormley said. “Guys are blocking shots and collapsing down low.
“Any way we can get pucks to the net and keep them in at the blue-line, it benefits our forwards.”
The game-winner that sank the Sea Dogs on Friday night was a case in point, as Ellis slipped a shot through that Yannick Veilleux tipped past goalie Mathieu Corbeil to break a 4-4 tie.
It was the Cataractes third game in as many nights and dispelled any notion that fatigue would be a factor.
Hunter welcomed the break because his team had been through a long season and playoff drive that culminated with their victory in five games over Niagara in the OHL final.
Didn’t sit idle
Shawinigan finished second to Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League regular season, but then were upset in seven games in the second round by Chicoutimi. That left them a 31-day break before the Memorial Cup, although they didn’t sit idle.
Coach Eric Veilleux put his team through a punishing schedule of practices and off-ice workouts to get them into top shape in body and mind.
“We had a chance to talk during that month,” said Veilleux. “Many things were addressed.
“When you go through adversity, you pretty much know the reasons why. I don’t want to call it an accident, but we lost Game 7, which we weren’t really planning on. The right things were said. You find solutions. They were clearly understood before this tournament and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”
Now Shawinigan has a chance to be only the second team to win the Memorial Cup after having to play in a tiebreaker game. The first was also in Quebec in 2009 in Rimouski, where the Windsor Spitfires lost their first two games and then ran the table.
The final will be Shawinigan’s fourth game in five nights and their sixth in 10. It will be London’s fourth in 10 days.
“They look prepared, physically and mentally,” said Hunter. “They’re an older team, not depending on 17-year-olds. That helps.”
Another factor is goaltending, where Shawinigan veteran Gabriel Girard has been solid while London’s Michael Houser has been surprisingly off his game. Girard has been the starter since the Cataractes’ second game after Alex Dubeau got the loss in the tournament opener against Edmonton.
He has posted a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in four starts.
Houser was named the outstanding player of the OHL this season after tying a league record with 46 wins and posting a 2.47 average. But at the Memorial Cup, he has let in some soft ones. His average is 3.03 and his save percentage a weak .885.
Brothers are evolving
But history favours London.
The Cataractes are a founding member of the QMJHL but have never won a Memorial Cup. The Knights are seeking their second in seven years, both with brothers Dale and Mark Hunter running the club.
They had a veteran, star-studded team in 2005 that included winger Corey Perry and won the event on home ice.
Dale Hunter was the coach then with Mark as general manager, but the roles are reversed after Dale took time out to coach the Washington Capitals this season.
Mark said the brothers have evolved since their first title.
“We’re calmer than we were then,” he said. “We know it won’t help them if we’re too wound up.
“They have to do it on the ice. We’re just here to help them along. We don’t want them too tight. It’s going to be a game with a lot of emotion. And too much emotion is no good either.”
Anton Zlobin was born on February 22nd, 1993 according to http://forecaster.thehockeynews.com/hockeynews/hockey/player.cgi?9581
February 22nd, 1993
2 + 22 +1+9+9+3 = 46 = his life lesson = Historic. Making history.
February 22nd, 1993
2 + 22 +2+0+1+2 = 29 = his personal year (from February 22nd, 2012 to February 21st, 2013) = Cooperation. Teamwork. Self-confidence. Skilled. Talented.
29 year + 5 (May) = 34 = his personal month (from May 22nd, 2012 to June 21st, 2012) = Generating a buzz. Things happen really quickly.
34 month + 27 (27th of the month on Sunday May 27th, 2012) = 61 = his personal day = Strategy. Taking the ice. Doing the unexpected. Stealing the game at the last minute.
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