Key For Huskies Will Be Containing Knights’ Top Line
Taming the three-headed monster that is the London Knights’ explosive top line will be the No. 1 challenge for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Sunday’s MasterCard Memorial Cup final.
Good luck with that.
The Ontario Hockey League champion Knights’ super-skilled line of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk recorded a staggering 29 points as London rolled to a trio of round-robin wins en route to a berth in the 2:30 p.m. championship contest at the Enmax Centrium.
Huskies netminder Chase Marchand, who was brilliant in back-stopping his squad to a 3-1 semifinal win over the host Red Deer Rebels Friday night, will almost certainly have to be equally as impressive against London.
Marchand, who turned aside 36 shots Friday, is fully aware of the damage the Marner-Dvorak-Tkachuk trio can inflict. London’s top unit combined for nine points in a 5-2 round-robin win over the Huskies as Marner collected four assists, Tkachuk scored twice and added one helper and Dvorak had a goal and an assist.
While the talented threesome will undoubtedly present problems in the final, Marchand is looking forward to the test.
“We just have to try and shut them down and play our game,” said the Huskies overage stopper. “We can’t give them time or space or that’s when they’re good. We just have to play our game and we’ll be all right.”
Rouyn-Noranda was ranked No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League for much of the season, but London has been the most impressive team in this year’s Memorial Cup tournament.
“It’s a good challenge for us,” said Marchand. “We try and not get too intimidated by it. We know they’re good, but we’re good as well and I think we can shut them down if we do our thing.
“I think it’s going to be a tough game between two teams that are battling and giving everything they have. It’s going to be a good game and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Marchand was red-hot in the semifinal and said he and his teammates can take momentum into the championship match. However, he added, maintaining an even keel with their emotions will be crucial.
“Whenever you win it helps you move along for the next game,” he said. “But we have to make sure we’re not too high or too low . . . just stay in the middle and play our game.”
The Huskies, according to Timo Meier, have yet to play at their highest level.
“We’ve shown some of our strength but we definitely haven’t played our best game here yet,” said the Huskies’ Swiss forward, who sits third in tournament scoring with five goals and seven points in four games.
London head coach Dale Hunter was an interested observer during Friday’s semifinal and didn’t see anything different in the Huskies than was the case during his club’s round-robin clash with the Quebec champions.
“They’re a fast team, they’re a good team,” said Hunter. “We know each other well from watching games and playing each other this week.
“It’s going to be a quick game, up and down the ice. They have speed, we have speed. It will be one of those games where you have to make smart decisions with the puck and execute properly.”
Maintaining discipline will also be a key, he noted.
“Coaches always say we don’t want to take penalties. Definitely that can be a factor,” he said.
The Knights have been off since their last round-robin game, Tuesday versus the Huskies.
“It was good to get the bumps and bruises healed up. We’ll be ready to go,” said Hunter.
Will the prolonged break provide the Knights with an extra edge?
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage,” said Hunter. “Both teams are going to be ready to play. It’s one of those games teams wait for all year.”