London Knights Win 2016 Memorial Cup

The London Knights have won the 2016 Memorial Cup, defeating the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the final by a score of 3-2 at the ENMAX Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta. Matthew Tkachuk scored the winner in overtime to claim the trophy for London. Goaltender Tyler Parsons was solid as usual, making over 25 saves in order to secure the victory for his team – as he has been doing for months. The Knights’ Mitch Marner was named tournament MVP, which completes his set of junior hockey individual awards.

London Knights Win 2016 Memorial Cup

Largely a goaltending battle, Chase Marchand shut the door repeatedly on the Knights while the Huskies were frustrated in the second period by London’s Tyler Parsons. The goaltenders kept the game tied through the first forty minutes, with both teams scoring a goal within 15 seconds of each other in the middle of the second period.

Christian Dvorak tied the game for the Knights late in the third period after Rouyn-Noranda’s Julien Nantel put the Huskies ahead ten minutes before. The co-captain’s goal reinvigorated his team, giving them the edge from then on heading into the extra period.

This is the second Memorial Cup title for London, who last claimed the trophy in 2005, with a team that featured Corey PerryBrandon Prust, and Dave Bolland. They have appeared at the tournament four times in the last five years, unable to win the Cup until now. This year, though, they advanced through the playoffs in far more convincing fashion than any other year, and deservedly now hold the title of national champion. The OHL champion has won the Memorial Cup for the second year in a row, with the Oshawa Generals winning in 2015.

The Knights had the most impressive run to the final, defeating the host Red Deer Rebels, WHL-champion Brandon Wheat Kings, and the Huskies in succession (by scores of 6-2, 9-1, and 5-2 respectively), and receiving a bye to the championship game. As a result, Sunday was the first game they’d played in five days, and rest was a factor in securing them the 98th Memorial Cup.

London has grown accustomed to long waits in this year’s playoffs, having swept the final three rounds (against the Kitchener RangersErie Otters, and Niagara IceDogs). They have now not lost a game since April 1, going 16-2 in one of the most dominant OHL playoff performances in history. The Knights won the J. Ross Robertson Cup on the backs of lethal offensive play by their top line of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk.

Marner, a 19-year-old prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs, finished with the tournament lead in points with 14, just shy of the tournament record of 16. He has concluded his postseason run with just a hair under 60 points in 22 games, making headlines across the country. On Saturday he was awarded the CHL Player of the Year trophy, adding to a collection that already included the OHL MVP awards for both the regular season and playoffs. Marner also ended his season on a 20-game point streak.

With the Memorial Cup MVP award, Marner has now accomplished a feat that only two before him have done – sweeping all four major individual awards in Canadian junior hockey. The last player to do it was Brad Richards in 2000 with the Rimouski Oceanic, the only other to win all four in the same year. Hall of famer Dale Hawerchuk won each award during his early-80s career with the Cornwall Royals, who won the Memorial Cup in 1980 and 1981.

Five Knights players were returning from the 2014 Memorial Cup, where London went 0-3 as the host team. Marner, Dvorak, Owen MacDonaldChandler Yakimowicz, and Aiden Jamieson have all now made up for a poor performance in the tournament two years ago by winning in Red Deer.

The QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies now go home empty-handed after an incredible season, where they lost just nine regular season games en route to their first President’s Cup title in team history. They showed tenacity in getting to the final, with players like captain and QMJHL MVP Francis Perron as well as Timo Meier leading the way as they defeated a feisty host team in the Red Deer Rebels in the semi-final.

Having won the Memorial Cup, the Knights now have time to celebrate before pondering their future. It seems increasingly likely that two of their three top line stars won’t be returning, with Dvorak, an Arizona Coyotes prospect, AHL-eligible next year and Marner looking to make the Maple Leafs out of camp.

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