Sun May 20 11:45pm EDT
SHAWINIGAN, Que. — In a game of inches, the Shawinigan Cataractes came out streets ahead.
Shawinigan's 6-2 final margin over the London Knights belied the truth this was the best game thus far at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. The Knights actually came out ahead 17-15 on scoring opportunities, according to the Cam Charron Chance-o-Meter. But the night turned on an end-to-end sequence in the third period punctuated by pinged posts.
London's Jared Knight, with his team trailing 3-2 hit the crossbar on a shot from the top of the faceoff circle. The puck went off the glass and out of the Cataractes zone like a free breakout pass, igniting a rush that Shawinigan overager Pierre-Olivier Morin finished off with a shot over the glove of Knights goalie Michael Houser. A power-play goal a few minutes later deep-sixed London.
The Cataractes (1-1), flush with the victory, have two days off prior to the all-QMJHL showdown Wednesday vs. Saint John. The Knights (1-1) have one day off prior to facing Edmonton (1-0 heading into Monday's matchup vs. Saint John). So yes, a tiebreaker game on Thursday is a good possibility. At least the Community season finale aired last week. On with the Post-Game Questions!
The first deflating moment for London came when Cataractes captain Michaël Bournival tipped in a first-period tying goal with 3:37 left in the frame, 13 seconds after the Knights killed off a full two-minute 5-on-3 disadvantage. Austin Watson, Jarred Tinordi and Scott Harrington were totally gassed and unable to get off the ice, while defencemen Kevin Raine and Brett Cook were out of position after leaving the box.
Bournival's goal was the first of four Shawinigan tallies that deflected in off a stick or a defender.
"We did a great job of killing it and blocking shots, but then we had two D playing forward, which is tough," Knight said.
Getting out of the first period could have been deflating for the Cataractes, who had eight of the first nine shots on goal. Instead, they went to the room square at 1-1.
"That was a huge goal for us," said Brandon Gormley, who set up that Bournival goal and got the first of his two goals early in the second period to put Shawinigan ahead for good. They did a great job blocking shots on that 5-on-3. We had chances but Houser. If we hadn't scored, they would have had a lot of momentum coming."
Gormley's first goal was on a shot through traffic that went in off London's Olli Määttä. Loïk Poudrier's short-hander midway through the frame also came on a shot London tipped.
Did the Knights' performance reflect their playing back-to-back, or being stuck on Cloud Nine after beating Saint John on Saturday?
London's party line seemed disinclined to pin their worst loss since Feb. 20 down to any one reason. Captain Jarred Tinordi acknowledged there might have been some difficulty resetting the clock to zero after upsetting the Sea Dogs, noting "maybe a little bit" when asked if that played a factor. It could have just been a bad night with some pinball goals.
"It's just one of those nights where we weren't bringing it," Jared Knight said. "We were maybe a little lackadaisacal.
"A tight tournament like this, they're really high-intensity games," the Boston Bruins prospect added. "We played back-to-back in the playoffs [four times], so that's not enough of an excuse for the way we came out. We didn't have that effort we needed."
What facet of Shawinigan's game did it improved compared to their loss Friday vs. Edmonton?
The Cataractes' losing margin vs. the Oil Kings was two defensive-zone turnovers that ended up in the back of their goal. They waited out the Knights' patient checkers and kept the cough-ups to a minimum.
"Puck management," Cataractes coach Éric Veilleux said. "That's what we saw we needed to do watching London play [Saturday]. We did have some guys in the past where we did mention that turnovers were going to be crucial. We did it turn over. Today, the guys did very well in that department."
It's almost a reflex to expect London to exert its will on teams. The Cataractes, though, played the game at a high tempo despite the meh ice conditions at Centre Bionest. It looks like they have played off the rust that formed during their 30-day break.
"They had good forecheck going and we spent too much time in our zone," Knights coach-GM Mark Hunter said. "We needed to cycle and get pucks deep and we didn't do a good job of that.
"We needed a bit more energy," Hunter added. "Parts of the second period we started coming around and playing a little better. There were some breaks tonight. There were some goals that we tipped in and monkeyed around."
Have the Cataractes found a groove?
Notwithstanding what might have been if Knight's shot had been an inch lower, ignoring the chances were even, the hosts look fully entitled to their innings.
There was no way, really, Shawinigan could come out flying last Friday after laying out for a month. Veilleux said he was prepared for as much in that Edmonton game.
"I didn't come out in the papers saying that we were going to have a slow start," Veilleux said. "We talked about it after Game 1 that we wanted and needed to get better. And the message today was that we need to get even better."
"Now we feel strong," Loïk Poudrier said. "Wednesday will be great. We get to relax our legs a little bit and be ready for Saint John."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.