Saturday, May 18, 2013

Don't let the score fool you

Josh Nicholls scores (CHL/WHL/Derek Mortensen)
Appearances can be very deceiving as witnessed in the opening game of the 2013 Memorial Cup between the hosts the Saskatoon Blades and the OHL Champions the London Knights. Really the only reasons why London only won 3-2 have to do with a terrible power play of the London Knights and Saskatoon goalie Andrey Markov. London dominated the game when at full strength but turned into the New York Rangers when on the power play going 1 for 6 including a 52 second 5 on 3 where they missed a golden opportunity to blow the game wide open.

Markov along with New York Ranger prospect Josh Nicholls (2013 UFA) made the game look respectable as Markov rightfully earned the game's first star keeping his team in the game despite London outplaying them. Nicholls made the Rangers look very good for signing him as he scored both Saskatoon goals off some nice efforts.

The first goal scored by Nicholls came on a rebound where Nicholls was "right place, right time" as he was sitting at the London doorstep with a wide open net to cash in the rebound of a Michael Ferland shot. Nicholls scored the opening goal of the series at 7:55 of the 1st period. The goal gave Saskatoon a 1-0 lead that they held until London first tied the score at 12:55 mark and then took the lead at the 18:21 mark.

The Knights took the lead into the first intermission and held it until Nicholls tied the score off a breakaway when he got in beyond the London blueline, took the shot and then banged in his own rebound tying the game at 15:21. Tommy Hughes (2013 UFA) was one of the London defensemen who were beaten on this play. Hughes was the 2nd London defender back on the play but to be fair he wasn't the one who let Nicholls beat him back.

Hughes was 2nd pair for London but other than Nicholls goal wasn't bad but wasn't special and London will need a much better effort from their entire blueline when they face Portland and Halifax in back to back nights. London's Dale Hunter hardly uses his 3rd pair of defenders so London is going to face problems trying to match the speed that Portland and Halifax bring.

London scored the game winning goal in the 3rd period on their 5th power play of the game. Saskatoon just didn't have enough in the tank to score the tying goal.

The 3rd Ranger prospect playing was Shane McColgan (2011 5th) of Saskatoon but the only play where McColgan was noticed was not a play he will like seeing on TV. McColgan got just flat out wiped out by London's Max Domi (yes son of Tie) with a very clean hit. Here is the replay courtesy of Prospect Park friend Neate Sager.

It was a play in the 3rd period and Domi caught him clean so one can't complain about it. McColgan was helped off the ice by a trainer and did return to play,

Sager's Buzzing the Net blog awarded their 2nd star of the game to Josh Nicholls.

Saturday night night's game between Portland and Halifax is in danger of being over-hyped but I for one am very much looking forward to seeing 4 of the best prospects in junior hockey in action. London next plays Portland on Monday while Saskatoon faces Halifax on Sunday.

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