In what is probably the biggest non-surprise of the hockey season the London Knights won the 2016 Memorial Cup over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The Knights came into the Memorial Cup Final on a 16 game winning streak and refused to stop for the QMJHL champions.
This was the hockey game we all anted to see at least once in this tournament. Lots of fantastic chances for both teams, goalies standings on their heads and a real back and forth on puck possession.
The Maple Leafs own Martins Dzierkals took the first shot one minute in to the game, and after that the official record show London outshot the Huskies by many to one.
There was no dominance during the first two periods, but there were times of nervousness. Whenever a penalty was awarded breath was held, especially when the dreaded London power play came out to play.
They had that chance when Gabriel Fontaine ('16 Draft) took a boarding penalty, and again when Anthony-John Greer ('15 COL) got called for roughing.
Prospects who were looking for a last chance to shine before the draft were doing just that, like Max Jones, who had time to make up for after missing a large part of the OHL playoffs due to suspension:
Nice burst of speed gives Max Jones (2016) the ability to separate himself from Myers for a great scoring chance https://t.co/96kJXjqMpx— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) May 29, 2016
Plenty of shots, plenty of chances, and London was trying to use it's speed and the synchronicity of that top line to it's advantage.
Knights often turn a save into a partial break/opportunity for themselves - did it again here. Good stretch passes. https://t.co/wUs2UKRsqB— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) May 29, 2016
There would be no score until the halfway mark of the second period, when Matthew Tkachuk ('16 Draft) would tip in a rocket pass from Mitch Marner ('15 TOR) to give London a 1-0 lead.
Mitch Marner (TOR) and Christian Dvorak (ARZ) get the assists to extend their pt streaks to 19-games each. https://t.co/xKrJZLNieq— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) May 29, 2016
London wouldn't be able to hold that lead for long, when 20 seconds later Francis Perron ('14 OTT) knocks in a warp around rebound to tie the game.
The Huskies come close to taking the lead, but we would go into the third period tied at one. The most tension filled period in hockey was about to begin.
The Huskies somehow don't score here. PP extends to the third period. https://t.co/p2S7oaukMG— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) May 29, 2016
The third was more of the same back and forth game we've seen throughout the game.
9 minutes in the Knights see something that they haven't all tournament. They see themselves behind on the scoreboard after Julien Nantel ('14 COL) puts the Huskies up by one.
The Knights would fight hard, they'd get an advantage when Anthony-John Greer gets two for delay of game and when Gabriel Fontaine would get two for high sticking but can't score on the powerplay.
We'd see four on four when Nikolas Brouillard (undrafted) gets two for roughing and Maple Leafs own JJ Piccinich gets two for high-sticking.
No goal there but soon after Christian Dvorak ('14 ARZ) scores to tie the game two apiece.
With a tie game and five minutes left to play both teams throw everything they have onto the ice. Posts get hit, shots are blocked, diving saves are made but no one can get it in.
For the second year in a row the Memorial Cup heads to overtime.
It kicks off with the Knights coming microscopicly close at winning it all within a minute, but they are denied. Rouyn-Noranda comes back with a chance of their own, and anyone with skin in this game is reaching for their heart already.
The overtime would end after some great overtime when Matthew Tkachuk would score from the dot and cap off what was one of the greatest CHL post-seasons in history.
1 - Matthew Tkachuk, London
2 - Tyler Parsons, London
3 - Chase Marchand, Rouyn-Noranda
This was the game we all wanted to see. Tight play, close score, heart attack inducing moments for fans of both teams, players leaving it all on the ice and finally some overtime.
One of the biggest reasons this score was so close was the Huskies penalty kill. The Knights came into this game 9/20 on the power play, but tonight they were 0/5.
The Huskies will fly back to Quebec, and bus it back to Rouyn-Noranda falling one goal short of becoming champions. They will however, be welcomed back to that small town as heroes, still being the QMJHL champions, and can take pride in the fact that they took the Knights to overtime.
Martins Dzierkals season ended one goal short of his third championship. He won the Group A World Junior Championship with Latvia in December, and the Huskies were QMJHL champions.
As the Knights were celebrating their win, Marner was named Memorial Cup MVP, his fourth MVP award this season. Mitch Marner finished with 14 points (2 G, 12A), and JJ Piccinich had 3 points (2G, 1A).
London Knights fans have little to worry about for next season. A large portion of this team will return. Max Jones and Matthew Tkachuk will be back. They have the depth to try and make another run at the cup, this time it will be in close to home, this time with a barn full of Knights fans.