This is part of an ongoing series in which we look back on amazing moments in London Knights’ history. Each day, we’ll bring you a new memory leading up to the anniversaries of the team’s Memorial Cup championships in 2005 and 2016.
On their road to the 2005 Memorial Cup championship, the London Knights met their toughest opponent right away. They played Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic on opening night.
In 2016 in Red Deer, Alta., the team that stood between London and their second Memorial Cup title was the last one that they faced in the round-robin.
The Knights’ overtime win against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the final instantly became the signature of the event. There isn’t a London fan from southwestern Ontario to southwest Australia who can’t picture where they were when Matthew Tkachuk pulled a puck into his body and shot it at the Rouyn-Noranda net.
But long before that moment, the 2015-16 season in the Canadian Hockey League had been about the Huskies.
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They were good. Rouyn-Noranda lost just nine games in regulation all year. They won 54 times. The Huskies also reeled off 19-consecutive victories to end the regular season and begin the playoffs.
Francis Perron and Timo Meier were frighteningly skilled offensive players and their defence was diving pool deep. Plus, Rouyn-Noranda had a goaltender in Chase Marchand who had a chip on his shoulder. Marchand had been waived through the Ontario Hockey League after appearing in four games with the Mississauga Steelheads and he was out to prove himself to any team from the OHL.
The game between London and the Huskies ended up being a late start at 8 p.m. local time and 10 p.m. eastern. The other games at the 2016 Memorial Cup all began at 5 and 6 p.m. local time. All of it had to do with scheduling for TV purposes.
A late game just means a different routine and the game followed that pattern. Things were out of sync. It was like watching someone try to turn a screw with a hammer. Both clubs had acknowledged before puck drop just how good the other team’s power play was and they each spoke about staying out of the box. Yet they combined for a tournament-high 18 minor penalties. The Huskies went to the man-advantage 11 times.
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The Knights had the upper hand going in because they were unbeaten at that point. In order to earn the bye to the final all they had to do was beat Rouyn-Noranda or simply make sure that if they lost that it wasn’t by much. The Huskies knew that if they ended up winning the game and if Red Deer were to win their final round-robin matchup then the Knights, the Rebels and Rouyn-Noranda would all have two wins and one loss and the tie-breaking formula would come into play. It would throw out the scores of the games played against the Brandon Wheat Kings and add up goal differential.
Winning made the picture much clearer for London, and in the end, that’s what they did.
Of the seven goals that were scored in the Knights’ 5-2 win, five came on the power play, one was scored short-handed and the last one was put into an empty net.
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London was able to fend off the Huskies nine different times on the power play and although Timo Meier struck twice for Rouyn-Noranda, the Knights’ big names outgunned their opponents in the end.
Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and added an assist. Christian Dvorak had a goal and an assist and Mitch Marner had four assists.
Max Jones and J.J. Piccinich also picked up goals and London got yet another stellar performance from Tyler Parsons in net, where he made 30 saves and was a huge part of the Knights’ success on the penalty kill. Parsons play at the 2016 Memorial Cup started at a high level but just seemed to keep rising throughout the tournament. His best performance was still to come.
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The victory was London’s 16th in a row and paved their way to the championship game no matter the outcome of the final round-robin game between Red Deer and Brandon.
It also gave the Knights and the Huskies a long look at what each other could do on the ice and that would certainly come back to be a factor in the final.