May 21, 2012
SHAWINIGAN, Que. — Contemplating the ifs is not a coach's job. So when Gerard Gallant was asked if he'll be Atlantic Canada's No. 1 Edmonton Oil Kings fan on Tuesday, he smiled.
Gallant's Saint John Sea Dogs' 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings, big as it was for the defending champs, also means a MasterCard Memorial Cup first. Since the event became a four-team saw-off in 1983, there has always been at least one team that started 0-2. This is the first time everyone opened 1-1. So all four are conceivably capable of advancing directly to Sunday's final or being forced into Thursday's dreaded tiebreaker.
"Obviously the goal is to get to the finals and an Edmonton win tomorrow would be great," said Gallant, whose team got two goals from Minnesota Wild first-round pick Zack Phillips and two primary helpers from fellow Wild prospect Charlie Coyle on other goals. "But you have to take care of your own wins. If London wins tomorrow, then we're playing for a semifinal game [on Wednesday against the Shawinigan Cataractes]. Just win your games. The worst-case scenario is a tiebreaker, we hope we're not there, but we'll see what happens.
Essentially, Shawinigan will be cheering for the London Knights on Tuesday. Saint John will be rooting for Edmonton, the team it defeated.
"We can all consider those two games exhibition games since we're all back to square one," Edmonton centre Curtis Lazar said. "But we can't get caught up in that."
This was pegged as a very tight tournament from the outset. It's the first in 16 years to include the regular-season champions of all three major junior leagues. The Cataractes-Sea Dogs derby for the QMJHL's regular-season flag also went down to the final two weeks of the regular season, with Saint John finishing six points ahead, 103-97.
That might lessen the shock. Or perhaps it's amazing this didn't happen the first 28 times, with 2012 being the 29th four-team tournament since '83 in Portland. Here are the possible outcomes from the last two nights of the round-robin.
If London and Saint John win — The Knights would get the bye to Sunday's final, since they beat the Sea Dogs. The Sea Dogs would qualify for the semifinal on Friday. London has the tiebreaker edge thanks to its win over Saint John. Edmonton would finish third and thus have last change in a tiebreaker game against Shawinigan, although the crowd would be 98 per cent pro-Cataractes.
If London and Shawinigan win — The Cataractes, by virtue of their win over London, would go directly to the final. The Knights go to the semifinal. Saint John gets last change in a tiebreaker game against Edmonton.
If Edmonton and Saint John win — The Sea Dogs get first place and the Oil Kings will be home team for the semifinal. Shawinigan would finish third and have the last change against London.
If Edmonton and Shawinigan win — The Oil Kings go straight to Sunday night with the Cataractes qualifying for the semifinal. London would be designated the home team in the tiebreaker against Saint John.
Now, please, no need to play math professor and say it must be incorrect that a format instituted in 1983 and still used in 2012 must have been used 30 times, not 29. The '87 Cup was a three-team event since the OHL's Oshawa Generals won a special series against the North Bay Centennials to determine the host and went on to win their league.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.