London Knights rookie centre Max Domi (OHL Images)SHAWINIGAN, Que. — The easy and cheesy way out when writing about Max Domi is to point out he plays much differently than his father. Tie Domi made the NHL as a tough guy and evolved enough to play more than 1,000 games; his only son is a scorer.
Going there glosses over how those hundreds of hours helped the younger Domi, who scored the first London Knights goal in their 5-3 MasterCard Memorial Cup upset of the Saint John Sea Dogs on Saturday, get that sense of where he is on the ice. His first-period marker was a reasonable facsimile of a lot of his markers with London. Jared Knight took a bad-angle shot from the right-wing boards. The rebound came directly to Domi, who slid to reach the puck and flick it over 6-foot-6 Sea Dogs goalie Mathieu Corbeil to erase Saint John's first and only lead of the night. Your basic get-to-the-dirty-areas goal, not unlike the ones another 5-foot-10, 180 and something pounds lad — Jeff Skinner — popped in for the Kitchener Rangers two seasons ago.
Another youngster playing in the Memorial Cup might have flipped the puck over the crossbar, maybe even over the glass from over-anticipation. Domi just buried it.
"I look to a guy like Austin Watson, he's been there before," the 17-year-old said afterward. "I sit next to him in our locker room and his main advice is when you get out there don't try to do too much, just keep it simple and let the game come to you."
In other words, the game's not the puck, it's the flow. Domi was altogether impressive Saturday while helping his team win. He was good at each end of the ice, disrupting a couple Sea Dogs rushes in the third period by racing back on defence.
The goal itself was a bit of a set piece from the Knights. It probably shouldn't be a surprise, given how hockey is broken down to minute components nowadays, that there are drills designed to increase the chance of getting a rebound goal. The Knights' work in that area paid off for Domi.
"We do a lot of drills like that, drive the net hard and putting the puck on the net and hopefully it comes out to the player," Knight said. "It did there and Domer made a nice move to get it up over him."
Whatever the reason, Domi went through an offensive lull in the second half of the season. However, he's been a prime-time performer late in the playoffs when one might guess the long season would be wearing on him. He had a two-goal game in the OHL Western Conference final vs. Kitchener and tallied a point in each of the first four games of the final vs. Niagara.
Knight, Domi's roommate in London — the pair each have Type 1 diabetes that has to be monitored closely, so billeting together makes sense — added his linemate was champing at the bit for the tourney opener. It was as if he knew he might have a goal in him.
"Any 16-year-old will have some jitters, but Domer's got a dad like Tie and he shared some advice with him," Knight said.
For anyone wondering, Tie Domi actually scored two goals in his first Memorial Cup game when his Peterborough Petes played in the 1989 tournament in Saskatoon. The Petes lost that game to the Swift Current Broncos, were forced to win a tiebreaker game later in the week and lost again to the Broncos in the semifinal. For the younger Domi, there's an example of how this is a long tournament.
"Obviously it's a big win and we have to match the effort against Shawinigan," he said, referring to Sunday's game vs. the host Cataractes. "We'll be ready [to play back-to-back]. Our coaching staff has done a pretty good job of keeping everyone in shape and hopefully we see that."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.