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In the end, the three league champions will battle it out to decide the 95th MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament....
The OHL champion London Knights opened up a 3-0 lead in the second period against the Saskatoon Blades and cruised to a 6-1 victory over the tournament host club. The London offence was spread among six different goal scorers while Jake Patterson stopped 32 of 33 shots faced.
"We knew that was the effort we need," said Knights captain Scott Harrington. "Our team was still very confident before the game. We knew that our last game against Halifax was just a bit of a hiccup. I thought we did a good job of getting back to the basics - the tendencies that our team needs to perform to be successful."
"I thought we played a good game defensively and offensively. We had a good first, and that was a key to the win tonight," added Knights Coach Dale Hunter.
Bo Horvat opened the scoring, after being awarded a penalty shot after a shorthanded breakaway. The sophomore forward's shot squeaked behind Saskatoon goalie Andrey Makarov. Seth Griffith and Chris Tierney scored 49 seconds apart in the middle frame to give the Knights control. Three more London goals by 3:22 of the third period from Ryan Rupert, Kyle Platzer and Nikita Zadorov iced it. Nathan Burns would provide the lone Saskatoon goal. The big lead allowed London to roll four lines, in preparation for Friday's semi-final.
"I think it is (important) for tomorrow. Saskatoon Wednesday had a really hard game," explained Hunter. "It does take something out of the kids, going back-to-back. Definitely by playing my fourth line in the third it didn't give the minutes to the other guys."
Much of the discussion around the Knights during the tournament has been about whether Patterson or Anthony Stolarz would be the starting goaltender. Stolarz started the first two games before Patterson took over Tuesday, the 9-2 blowout against Halifax.
"Jake's been good all year for us," said Hunter. "We put Jake in against Halifax but it wasn't a fair assessment, we weren't very good, we were bad defensively and he had no chances on the goals. So that's why I went back to him because he's a good goalie."
"I came into this game with the thought that I just had to do the best I could and prepare mentally. The boys played really good in front of me tonight," added Patterson.
The Knights play the WHL Champion Portland Winterhawks Friday night, with the winner taking on the Halifax Mooseheads, champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, in Sunday's final.
-The Blades are the first host team since the 2009 Rimouski Oceanic to be eliminated prior to the semi-final.
-London dressed forward Paxton Leroux for the first time in the tournament. He was assessed a double-minor during the second period but the Blades were unable to capitalize.
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