SHAWINIGAN, Que. — There comes a time when everyone wants to raise the black flag and take no prisoners. That time, for Ryan Rupert, is any day ending in Y.
Or any night that ends in a W. No doubt a few fans watching back in Ontario wondered if the rambunctious Ruperts, Ryan and his identical twin Matt who play the wings on London's shutdown first line with Austin Watson, might get some Memorial Cup-uppance. Surely playing the Saint John Sea Dogs might take the 17-year-olds — whom Knights fans refer to as the Hansons after the Slap Shot characters — down a peg. Instead Ryan Rupert came away probably ever surer checking and chirping till the cows come home will never fail him. His aggressive backcheck on Sea Dogs captain Jonathan Huberdeau was the straw that broke the star's stack.
With 2:04 left, Huberdeau overreacted to being stripped of the puck by tearing after Rupert. In the ensuing skirmish, Huberdeau cuffed Rupert in the head, earning the extra penalty as both were sent off. Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant also took a bench minor, leading to a 5-on-3 even the Knights power play could convert. Vladislav Namestnikov scored moments later to cinch a 5-3 win at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
"Getting punched is not that good, but it didn't really connect," Ryan Rupert said with a smile. "It was just a little scrum. It makes it that much better getting the 5-3 win."
The native of Grand Bend, Ont., also assisted on Watson's eventual game-winner earlier in that period. Rupert knifed in on the forecheck to coax a cough-up from a pair of 19-year-old defenders, Pierre Durepos and Kevin Gagné. His deft pass out was quickly one-timed home by Watson, opening a 4-2 lead. But the decisive moment, really, was getting Huberdeau to give in to unchecked emotion. The Sea Dogs were in the tournament last season, they boast the reigning Memorial Cup MVP and Rupert gets him to snap?
Grand Bend Grit 1, Gallic Flair 0.
London Knights rookie centre Ryan Rupert (OHL Images)The ice conditions at Centre Bionest, which Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant called "awful," had a lot to do with the Sea Dogs' overflowing frustration. They came away feeling deprived of a chance to play a skilled game. Still, Watson and the Ruperts' work played a large role in Huberdeau, Charlie Coyle and their centre Danick Gauthier doing some collective teeth-gnashing, while the Scott Harrington-Jarred Tinordi defensive pair was lights-out once again. The trio was split up in the third period when Saint John tried to rally.
Huberdeau is expected to earn a NHL job with the Florida Panthers next season. Rupert's pro future is as clear as the gravy on a good poutine. At 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds, he's unranked by NHL Central Scouting for this summer's NHL entry draft. Far be it to play expert but people have wondered about it. Rupert had 15 points in 19 OHL playoff games while usually playing every team's top forward unit. He also had 17 goals and 48 points in 63 regular-season games.
In the short term, at least, he can savour putting Huberdeau over the edge. It's another skin to hang on the wall.
"I guess you could say that, I'm one up on him," said Rupert, who has more or less toed the line since getting a five-game suspension in November for two-handing Sault Ste. Marie's Nick Cousins in the gut at the end of a Knights loss. "Kept them frustrated the whole game while going against them. That's the game we played against their line."
Supplemental discipline for Huberdeau?
Huberdeau said he apologized to his teammates for his gaffe.
"I don't care who the player is on the other side," he said. "There's always going to be a player there in front of me, so I just have to keep playing my game and not worry about that."
"It's undisciplined," he added. "I shouldn't do that."
The Sea Dogs captain missed the first two games of the QMJHL championship series due to a suspension meted for a check from behind on Chicoutimi's Charles Hudon in the semifinal. This could also be reviewed.
C'est la vie, though, against a team led by Mark and Dale Hunter. The Ruperts, who billet at Dale Hunter's home, seem made in the brothers' images. It is like anything they do is done with some malice afterthought, wondering if they can throw someone off just because. As London, Ont., hockey scribe Ryan Pyette reported earlier this season, the reason Matt Rupert wears 46 and Ryan Rupert wears 64 is because they knew it would be confusing when they are on the ice at the same time.
That's how they roll, how they swing their swords. The Ruperts ought to have arrived in the Mauricie region by sailing a pirate ship down the St. Lawrence River instead of flying on the team plane. The No. 64 jersey displayed in the patio door of a room at the Knights' hotel in Trois-Rivières late Saturday may as well have been the Jolly Roger.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.