London Knights: Back in time – The Memorial Cup final

London Knights' Matthew Tkachuk, centre, celebrates the game-winning goal in the team's overtime victory in CHL Memorial Cup championship game hockey action against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Red Deer, Sunday, May 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The London Knights are one of just two Canadian Hockey League teams that have won the Memorial Cup more than once since 1996. London captured their first title in 2005. They won again in 2016. The Windsor Spitfires won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 and again as won when they hosted the tournament in 2017.

Strangely, the Knights won both of their titles on the exact same day: May 29. Their third appearance in a Memorial Cup final was on May 27 in Shawinigan, Que.

This week, the ongoing series, London Knights: Back in time, will focus on stories from before, during and after those games.

May 26 – Could London win 17 straight?

May 27 – Aftermath and wisdom in Shawinigan

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May 28 – Adam Dennis gets the start

May 29 – Championship Day

The Knights victory in 2016 in Red Deer, Alta., had all kinds of unique storylines.

London won 17-straight playoff and Memorial Cup games and survived a nail-biting final with a game-winning goal at 7:49 into overtime. It was the eighth time in the 37 years since the tournament had gone to a host team and four participants that the game needed more than 60 minutes to decide a champion.

The game-winning goal in 2016 was a no-doubter. The bigger question was whether the puck had glanced off London forward Christian Dvorak as he skated through the vision of Rouyn-Noranda goaltender Chase Marchand after it left the stick of Matthew Tkachuk. But no one was rewinding to try to determine that during the celebratory chaos once the red light came on.

At that moment, Tkachuk slid on his back through the crease and wound up in the corner to the right of the Huskies net, joined first by his linemates Dvorak and Mitch Marner, who were on the ice with him, and then by the entire London team as they came streaming off the bench.

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The Knights’ coaches and staff members celebrated on the bench in a massive group embrace and then they ran onto the ice.

In the stands at the Enmax Centrium, the section of seats saved for parents and family members of the Knights sounded out huge cheers and saw hugs and tears as disbelief disappeared and the lighter-than-air feeling of having won major junior’s ultimate prize set in.

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But there was one small collection of individuals who in those initial seven seconds of elation felt the opposite sensation.

London video coach Rob Wilson and hockey operations advisor Joey Poljanowski were watching the game on a TV screen to have access to replays and to be able to cut tape for the Knights to use between periods. They were in a room adjacent to the dressing room and in overtime they were joined by Evan Bouchard, Alex Formenton, Nic Mattinen, Kole Sherwood and Emanuel Vella, who had put on their equipment, as is customary just in case their team wins. That allows them to head out in skates and full gear and be a part of the fun.

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As overtime began, all seven were fixated on that small screen down underneath the seats of the Enmax Centrium.

They watched Marchand turn away two London chances. They saw Rouyn-Noranda come so close to scoring that only a phenomenal stop by Tyler Parsons kept the game from ending. And everything they were watching was out of sync with everything they were hearing.

Since Wilson, Poljanowski and the five future OHL stars were viewing the television feed, everything on the screen was on a seven-second delay. They could hear crowd reactions because they were right beneath the stands but they wouldn’t see the action play out until seven seconds later.

And that made the end of the game a completely different experience for all of them.

Most of the highlights that you will find of the game-winning goal in 2016 begin with Knights’ defenceman Aiden Jamieson making a pass out of the London zone to Matthew Tkachuk on the left-wing side of the ice.

Go back just a little bit before that play started.

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Huskies defenceman Nikolas Brouillard was controlling the puck at his own blue line and he fired it ahead to Gabriel Fontaine, who was able to shovel the puck deep into the London end.

The teams were seven minutes and 41 seconds into overtime as the puck rolled around the boards through the left corner of the Knights zone. The winner was scored at 7:49.

A second later, Olli Juolevi of the Knights batted at the puck along the boards the five London players and Wilson and Poljanowski heard a huge cheer coming from above and their hearts sank. The puck was in the London end on the screen in front of them. Rouyn-Noranda must have scored. For a split second they were left to come to terms with what they felt was a loss in the Memorial Cup final.

And then all seven watched as the puck that was batted by Juolevi ended up on the stick of Jamieson and he turned and skated forward through the face-off circle to the left of the Knight net.

Dvorak was in front of him. Marner had his back to the boards on right-wing and Tkachuk was gliding along the boards on left-wing.

Jamieson kept coming as all seven kept watching. All of a sudden what appeared to be the worst possible result had a glimmer of hope.

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Jamieson reached the London blue line, pivoted and slid a perfect pass to his left ahead to Tkachuk, who got it just as he reached the blue line of the Huskies. In one motion, Tkachuk pulled the puck past a Rouyn’Noranda defender and shot into the obscured vision of Marchand and the final seven people inside the building finally knew that the celebration they were still hearing above them was for the Memorial Cup champion London Knights.

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