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London Knights’ Ryan Rupert gets hat trick in series-tying win: Saturday’s 3 Stars

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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London Knights rookie centre Ryan Rupert (OHL Images)

No. 1 star: Ryan Rupert, London Knights (OHL)

Rupert, the Knights' 186-pound perpetual-motion machine, delivered his second hat trick of the playoffs to help London come back for a 5-3 win over the Niagara IceDogs in Game 2 of the OHL final. The Knights, who wrested back home-ice advantage with the win, spotted Niagara a 2-0 lead. But captain Jarred Tinordi effectively threw a bucket of cold water across his team's collective face by executing a give-and-go to cut into the lead.

In the second period, Rupert scored consecutive goals less than three minutes apart to put the Knights ahead for good. First the 17-year-old from Grand Bend, Ont., intercepted an ill-advised pass up the boards by veteran IceDogs defender Brock Beukeboom, carried into the slot and beat Mark Visentin with a backhand. A few minutes later, the winger, his twin Matt Rupert and centre Austin Watson got the IceDogs on the run with a well-executed cycle that was capped off with Ryan Rupert converting a centring pass from his brother.

Rupert also some fine grunt work along the boards in the corners in the third period, when the IceDogs kept the play inside London's blueline about two-thirds of the time. He ended up scoring the empty-net clincher with eight seconds left after Greg McKegg won a puck battle and sprung Rupert for the chance.

No. 2 star: Andrew Agozzino, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

The IceDogs captain had a natural hat trick in a losing cause in his team's home loss in the OHL final. Agozzino staked Niagara to an ill-fated 2-0 lead in the first period. First he found a slew of ice within London's airtight coverage down low and whipped a feed from Ryan Strome into the net to open the scoring. Later in the first period, Agozzino scored his second of the night by redirecting a shot by Dougie Hamilton.

After London's four-goal run in the second period, Agozzino resuscitated the IceDogs by snapping in his hat-trick goal off a no-look pass from David Pacan. However, London kept a tight seal of defenders around goalie Michael Houser (39 saves) over the final 20 minutes and held for the series-squaring win, despite being outshot 15-5 over that stretch. Honestly, at times the Knights defenders almost resembled a soccer team forming a wall before the opponent takes a free kick — and that's meant as the ultimate compliment.

No. 3 star: Charlie Coyle, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Coyle (1G-1A) established a club record for points in a single playoff while leading Saint John to a 3-2 win over the Rimouski Océanic a 2-0 President's Cup final lead. The Minnesota Wild prospect now has 32 points in 15 post-season contests, breaking a two-year-old mark held by Michael Kirkpatrick.

The Weymouth, Mass., native got the secondary assist on the Tomas Jurco power-play goal 7:02 into the game that opened a 2-0 Sea Dogs lead. In the second period, Coyle got a breakaway during a 4-on-3 penalty kill, forcing Rimouski's Alex Belzile to put the clamps on him. Coyle was awarded a penalty shot and converted for a short-handed goal, which also stood as the game-winner.

Honourable mention: Petr Straka, Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)

The Columbus Blue Jackets second-rounder scored both Océanic goals on fellow Jackets pick Mathieu Corbeil, forcing Saint John fans to stay in their seats until the final buzzer. The Océanic only had 16 shots, but their ratio of chances to recorded shots on Corbeil was fairly high. They pinged two goal posts in the opening period, so they might have deserved better than being down 3-0 midway through the game. Straka scored his first off a rebound with 4:10 left in Period 2 and converted from a tough angle with 64 seconds left in the contest. Rimouski was unable to threaten in the scarce time it had remaining, though.

Honourable mention: Tomas Jurco, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Ol' Tommy Toe-Drag scored his 10th goal of the playoffs and second of the President's Cup final during the Sea Dogs' first-period flurry which gave them control of the contest. Less than a minute after Danick Gauthier opened the scoring, Jurco pulled a rebound to his backhand and lifted it high over Océanic goalie Jacob Chouinard's glove from the slot to double the margin. Coyle has drawn most of the attention in the Port City, but Jurco's had a superb playoff as well, with 22 points in 14 games. That's an improvement the Detroit Red Wings second-round pick's output last spring, when he had 18 in 19 QMJHL post-season games.

(Game recaps available here.)

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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