KITCHENER -- Thanks to Shawn Matthias' rear end, the Belleville Bulls have a big win at the Memorial Cup.
The Florida Panthers prospect scored twice, including the third-period winner that pinballed in off his backside with 6:56 left, and the OHL runners-up charged to a 6-3 triumph over the winless Gatineau Olympiques before 6,705 last night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
"It bounced off (Matt Beleskey) and then hit my butt and went in," the 20-year-old Mississauga native said. "It was a break for us in a tight game."
The Spokane Chiefs certainly appreciate the cheeky goal. The Bulls win books the WHL champs a berth in Sunday's championship game.
Matthias' first-period effort -- one of two short-handed Belleville goals -- won't get him on the highlight reels either. He stripped the puck off Olympiques goalie Ryan Mior's stick and slid the puck into a hole under the arm of a diving defenceman.
"I just tried to get it at the net and it happened to go in a good spot," he said.
Matthias is no stranger to the big stage. He assisted on Matt Halischuk's gold-medal winning overtime goal for Canada at the world junior championship this year. He scored twice in his second NHL game for the Panthers during a brief callup.
He's scored three times in the Memorial Cup and four in three games since returning from a two-month hiatus due to mononucleosis.
When the Bulls started their journey to the OHL final and booking a Memorial Cup berth, their big guy all but disappeared -- not easy for a six-foot-four, 213-pounder who some call the best junior-aged player in Canada.
Matthias didn't want to be a distraction for his friends.
"At first, I was at my billets and I had nurses coming in to take care of me because I couldn't do anything," he said. "But (veteran forward) Cory Tanaka was living with me and I didn't think it was fair to him that he'd come home to this sick guy all the time. So I left. I went home and even though my parents won't admit it, I think they liked having me there."
Tanaka, a modest goal scorer in his OHL career, is tied with Matthias for the team lead in this tournament.
"There's only one thing Shawn Matthias hasn't done at this level and that's win a championship," said Bulls coach-GM George Burnett. "He's done everything else. He's won a world junior. He's succeeded in the NHL. I know that's very important to him, to go out a winner before he moves on to the pro game."
Matthias watched his team lose the first three games of the OHL final to the powerhouse Kitchener Rangers, then roar back to force a Game 7, allowing Matthias the opportunity to get back in the lineup before the Cup started.
He scored his team's only goal in a 4-1 loss, but the Bulls proved they belonged here.
At the start of the Memorial Cup, Burnett worried Matthias would try to do too much. He didn't want his big horse to over-extend himself.
That changed after an opening 5-4 loss to Spokane. Burnett chatted with Matthias and warned him to be ready for an increased workload the rest of the way.
"He's still working me in slowly but I feel a lot better," Matthias said. "My legs felt slow in Game 7 of the OHL final. Then, it was a little better in the first game (Spokane) and now I feel like I have my breath back.
"I'm ready for this. How can you not be? It's the Memorial Cup."