September 1, 2009
Too much Gagner for ZugJust when it seemed like the Swiss club was climbing back into the game, the Edmonton Oilers forward scored to clinch the title for the London Pro Knights
By RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA
Sam Gagner has magic in his hockey stick.
The Edmonton Oilers know it.
The London Knights have never forgotten it.
But former NHL goalie Jussi Markkenen and Swiss club EV Zug teammate Josh Holden found out the hard way.
Gagner sealed an undefeated Euro Can Cup for the London Pro Knights star by scoring the devastating title-clinching goal midway through the third period of a 7-4 win before about 3,000 last night at the John Labatt Centre.
"Backhand toe drag," the 20-year-old Londoner called the lightning-quick move for his tournament-leading eighth goal.
Before the terrific tally, valiant Zug had battled back from a four-goal hole to cut the lead to one. But after Gagner's heroics and at the end of playing five games in six nights, they were gassed.
"For a moment, I forgot about who I was up against," former Vancouver Canuck Holden said with a wry grin. "He gave me the toe drag and then a little wink afterward. That's why he's doing it at the NHL level.
"He's a very good player."
Gagner's family is in the process of moving from their London home but he won't soon forget this week.
He reunited with old pals past and present. He got to hit the ice again with his 44-year-old father Dave -- just like they did during their time with the Knights and farther back on their backyard rink in Oakville.
He played his part in raising $20,000 for the Shoot for a Cure spinal injury research -- a charity close to his heart after a good childhood friend suffered such an injury playing minor hockey.
"It was such a fun week and I think every guy on this ice here feels the same way I do," he said. "So many people did so much work to put this on. Pat (organizer and former Knights assistant Pat Curcio) and The Gooch (Kerry Goulet), they put in a lot of time and effort to get this thing off the ground and all the credit goes to them for getting the guys here.
"I just want to maintain what I did here on the ice like I have all summer and go into camp and hopefully on to a strong year (for the Oilers)."
Curcio and Goulet put the four teams on the ice. Former Knight Brandon Prust, such a big part of London's 2005 Memorial Cup win, deserved a big assist for helping shape the winning roster.
He worked his connections to spread the word of the Euro Can Cup and produced hard-working Calgary Flames teammate Eric Nystrom, then big Todd Bertuzzi, who joined up late but had a goal and three points in the final.
"Ny and I went golfing with Bert on Thursday in Kitchener and tried to twist his arm," Prust said. "Through hockey, you meet some people along the way and come to be pretty close with some of the guys. I told Ny all the London stories and he's been here before but he wanted to come back again and check it out for himself.
"We got to hang out again, went out for dinner and breakfast and stuck to the routine. Being back in the dressing room with the guys, it was like no time had passed.
"But I told Sammy and (Rob) Schremp and Pou (Marc Pouliot, also with the Oilers) that we're not friends anymore.
"Now we're enemies (in the Battle of Alberta)."
Bertuzzi, who looked strong on his skates, won't be a part of that Calgary-Edmonton rivalry this time.
The 34-year-old, who has more NHL kilometres on him than tattoo ink on his arms -- and that's saying something -- is back with the Detroit Red Wings.
"I don't skate all summer and usually don't go on the ice for another two weeks so this is early for me," he said. "I wasn't in Detroit for very long the first time but I know well enough what kind of organization I'm joining and how they always give themselves the chance to win. They're first-class all the way."
Gagner highlighted the tournament all-star team at forward along with Zug's Holden and Damien Brunner.
Knight Danny Richmond and Zug's Mick DuPont were named top defencemen while London's Adam Dennis -- the top goalie in the '05 Memorial Cup -- earned the same honour this week. He stopped 34 shots in the Euro Can final.