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The Saint John Sea Dogs entered the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup as the favoured team in the eyes of many. But the London Knights showed they are beatable....
The OHL Champion Knights frustrated the Sea Dogs all evening en route to a 5-3 victory over the QMJHL Champions from Saint John. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Vladislav Namestnikov scored two goals while OHL Playoff MVP Austin Watson, a Nashville pick, scored a goal and two assists and was named the game's first star.
"I thought we didn't turn many pucks over in the neutral zone and got pucks deep so we tried to keep their speed down," explained Knights GM/Coach Mark Hunter. "I thought we cycled well and made good on our chances."
"It's huge, we knew these guys were going to be a good team going in," added Knights goaltender Michael Houser. "It's going to make our job a little easier with a win. (But) we can't sit back, we have to go out full force (Sunday vs. Shawinigan), pretty quick turnaround so we have to be ready."
The Knights utilized Watson along with twins Ryan and Matt Rupert against the Saint John line lead by Florida Panthers top pick Jonathan Huberdeau. The twins helped frustrate the Sea Dogs all evening, keeping Saint John off the scoreboard at even strength. They were limited to a pair of shorthanded goals, by Huberdeau and Charles-Olivier Roussel, along with a powerplay marker from Ryan Tesink.
"When you look at their offence we're matching up, all drafted guys to the NHL," said Ryan Rupert. "We just wanted to play our defensive style game, out-battle them, out-compete them, and that's what we did."
Namestnikov's second goal, a powerplay marker came with 53 seconds remaining in the third period ice the game. It was scored on a five-on-three advantage after Huberdeau took a double-minor while being tangled up with Rupert, who went off for two minutes. Sea Dogs Head Coach Gerrard Gallant was incensed with the extra minor and eventually took a penalty himself. "I watched the penalties...I've been complaining all year, I've been in the Quebec League for 3 years and I've been complaining for 3 years that we always get the short end of the stick," said a frustrated Gallant. "I'm tired of it, I really am."
"Tonight, it was again, how does Huberdeau get a penalty at the end of the game for four minutes for roughing? Give me a break. I'm not taking anything away from London they were the better team. But I'm so tired of that. You show your frustration at the end of the game. I don't want to do that but it's been over and over and over again. I'm tired of it."
"And that's just not from tonight's game. It's been all playoff long for us too."
For the record, the Knights powerplay went 1-for-8 in the game, while giving up the two shorthanded goals. The SeaDogs were successful once in five opportunities.
-The official attendance was announced as a sell out of 4,557. There were some empty seats in the building but those tickets could have been held by fans who did not attend the game, or by sponsors and other officials who may not have occupied the seat.
-Dale Hunter, who finished the season with the Washington Capitals, has re-joined the Knights to assist during the tournament. His plan is to watch the games from an endzone location.
-The Knights take on Shawinigan (0-1) Sunday evening, while Saint John battles Edmonton (1-0) Monday night.
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