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As they did one year ago, the London Knights won their first game at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. This year they just hope it ends differently....
The Ontario Hockey League champions edged the host Saskatoon Blades 3-2 in the tournament opening game. Brett Welychka, Seth Griffth and Nikita Zadorov scored for the Knights (1-0) while Josh Nicholls scored both goals, in a losing cause, for Saskatoon (0-1).
Anthony Stolarz posted the win in goal for the Knights, returning to the net after being replaced after Game Four of the OHL Championship Series. Knights Head Coach Dale Hunter confirmed after the game Jake Patterson had been suffering from the flu early in the week - leaving Stolarz as his starting netminder.
The Blades opened the scoring just before the eight-minute mark of the first period. Nicholls and Michael Ferland did some nice work controlling the puck down low behind the London net. Ferland's wraparound attempt slid out to Nicholls who put the puck past Stolarz.
The Knights tied it up on what looked like a fairly harmless play. Chris Tierney's shot was stopped by Andrey Markarov but Welychka took a stab at the rebound and put the puck just inside the far post.
Before the first period was done, Blades defenceman Duncan Siemens coughed up the puck just outside his own blueline. Bo Horvat turned it into a scoring chance that was finished off by Griffith to send the Knights to the room with a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
In the second period London was unable to capitalize on some powerplay chances to increase their lead before Nicholls scored his second of the game. Ferland sent Nicholls in on a partial breakaway. Stolarz stopped the first shot but Nicholls banged in a rebound.
It remained tied until 5:45 of the third period - Zadorov snuck in from the point to score on a rebound and the Knights went back in front. Zadorov is among the players at this tournament expected to go in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
-This marked the fifth year in a row the host team has dropped the opening game of the tournament. The last team to win on home ice in the first game was the 2008 Kitchener Rangers, who beat Gatineau 6-5 in overtime.
-The announced attendance was 10,203 at Credit Union Centre. The largest crowds to attend games in the building was 15,171 for both the Canada/USA games during the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship (round-robin and championship game). 12,588 is the biggest crowd for a Blades games - February 9, 2013 against Lethbridge.
-Tournament action continues Saturday with the much-anticipated game between Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks against Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and the Halifax Mooseheads. Those three players are rated as the top players eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
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