No. 1 star - Charlie Coyle, Saint John Sea Dogs
It's been a tumultuous couple of days for the former Boston University Terrier, who tore up the QMJHL playoffs but was largely invisible in Saint John's first game, as well as the first period of this one. But Coyle broke through in the second period, closely missing the net on a chance early in the frame that would have given his team a 2-1 lead. Finally, fighting bad ice and early tournament jitters, Coyle connected with line mate Jonathan Huberdeau on a no-look pass that put Huberdeau in on a breakaway, giving the Sea Dogs the lead. "I just turned, and the pass is on my tape," said Huberdeau.
Later in the frame, Coyle took a hard shot on net that ended up deflecting off of Danick Gauthier and trickling past Laurent Brossoit. Coyle's two second period assists, along with an offensive unit that was clearly out-shooting and out-chancing their Edmontonian opposites, paced Saint John's offence in the frame.
Coyle was also an effective penalty-killer for the Sea Dogs. The Oil Kings special teams had looked very dangerous against Shawinigan in their first game, and yet they were held to just two scoring chances in this game, largely due to the work of Coyle and Huberdeau, who played up at the blue line, pressuring the points and keeping the Kings from working it inside.
"We came out kind of flat the last game," said Coyle, whose team responded from a two-goal loss to London with a 5-2 win over the WHL Champions. "Tonight we came out, we did all the little things and that was the key."
The ice surface has been a real topic of conversation this tournament due to the high heat in Shawinigan. It's been theorized and glossed over by many an amateur ice-maker in the press room that slow ice has knocked the skill guys off their game, in particular Saint John's top line that took four periods to really get it going, but the Weymouth, Massachusetts native disagreed. "I'm not even focusing on that, we just want to be more hard on the puck."
No. 2 star - Henrik Samuelsson, Edmonton Oil Kings
Sure, one of Henrik Samuelsson's primary assists involved teammate Kristians Pelss expertly tipping one from 3'11.5" off the ice, and another involved a pretty move by Stephane Legault to elude both the Saint John defender and the goaltender. Samuelsson was involved on a number of Edmonton's chances in this game, though, and was particularly strong on a powerplay midway through the third period with two nice keeps at the blue line as the remainder of the Oil Kings kept getting torched for short handed chances.
Generally, Samuelsson kept the play at the right end of the ice and he was the leading point-scorer for the Kings in a game where they kept pace with the defending champs all the way through.
No. 3 star - Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs
Zack Phillips centred a line that was quite literally 'buzzing the net' all game, creating a number of solid chances. After Tomas Jurco and Stanislav Galiev had been stymied on a number of opportunities, Phillips broke free in the third, scoring the 4-2 dagger on a shot from the slot on a great pass from Jurco.
Phillips also opened the scoring in the first period, giving the Sea Dogs life, on a very harmless-looking play from the far boards, simply throwing the puck on net. While Phillips told the media that the Dogs tried to be "too cute" in the first game that led to a loss to London, it was ironically an "acute" play from a bad angle that got the champs going.
Game Grade: A flat performance from the WHL champs certainly didn't provide too much entertainment value, particularly in the early stages in the second when it was all Sea Dogs. That said, the offensive abilities of the defending champs were on display tonight, and for two periods, that was fun to see. B-.