Knights stop Sea Dogs in their tracks

London Knights teammates celebrate their second goal against the Saint John Sea Dogs during their...

London Knights teammates celebrate their second goal against the Saint John Sea Dogs during their Memorial Cup round robin match in Shawinigan Que., Saturday May 19, 2012. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:14 AM ET

SHAWINIGAN, QUE. - All Ryan Rupert wanted from his first Memorial Cup game was to have people talking about his London Knights.

Well, Rupert, pick your topic.

How about the Knights beating the defending Memorial Cup champions and favourites, the Saint John Sea Dogs?

Or forcing Saint John star Jonathan Huberdeau to engage you in a late-game punch-up?

Or hearing Sea Dogs boss and two-time Canadian Hockey League coach of the year Gerard Gallant bashing the refs?

The Knights turned this tournament right on its ear with a 5-3 win Saturday night before 4,557 at Centre Bionest.

A-listers on a Hollywood red carpet pray for an entrance this grand.

“We wanted to come in and make a splash,” said Rupert, the 17-year-old forward who plays on a gritty line with his twin brother Matt and lives at London co-owner Dale Hunter's house. “We beat the team that most recently won the Cup.”

With Dale Hunter, the former Washington Capitals coach, watching proudly from above ice level, his teenaged clones played their usual gritty, defence-first style to throw Saint John for a loop.

There will be no coronation or cake walk for the Sea Dogs in their quest for back-to-back titles. They won't steamroll to a second straight crown like the Windsor Spitfires two years ago in Brandon, Man.

London is now 5-0 all-time at the Cup. The Sea Dogs are 3-2.

This tournament is wide open.

“Of course it's frustrating,” Huberdeau, the Sea Dogs captain and Florida Panthers first-round draft pick, said. “We lost. I was undisciplined and you can't take penalties like that. I apologized but it doesn't make a difference. It's disappointing.

“(The Knights) made it a difficult game.”

The Sea Dogs struck 1:37 into the game with their first of two shorthanded goals, but London didn't roll over.

Rookie Max Domi, whose dad Tie scored twice for Peterborough at the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, replied and Tampa Bay Lightning first-rounder Vladislav Namestnikov got his stick on a Tyler Ferry pass for a gorgeous tip-in late in the first period.

The Knights never looked back.

“I was trying to get a piece of it,” said the 19-year-old Namestnikov, who scored twice, “and it just went in a perfect spot. Lucky for us.

“I don't think (Saint John) took us lightly. There are four good teams here. This was just one game, but it's the way we wanted to start.”

Ryan Rupert sensed frustration in the Sea Dogs when they couldn't draw even. He avenged a big Huberdeau hit on his brother Matt, who had hustled back to lift Huberdeau's stick, by trading punches.

“I didn't see what happened,” Ryan Rupert said. “We were just doing our thing. Just playing hard and that's it. They got some extra penalties (and Namestnikov put it away with the two-man advantage).”

Gallant took a late bench minor and his disgust boiled over post-game.

“I've been complaining for three years in this league we always get the short end of the stick and I’m tired of it,” Gallant said. “It happened in the playoffs, too. Look at the numbers. You show your frustration, I don't want to do that, but it's over and over.

“I watched those penalties. How does Huberdeau get an extra two? The Gauthier slashing?”

Gallant could face a fine for his comments, but he's also trying to light a fire under his club.

“I’m not taking anything away from London, they were the better team,” Gallant added. “We talked about the ice being awful and our skill guys didn't want to fight through it.

“The only time we worked hard was on the penalty kill. That's not our team.”

The Knights won the OHL title with the 11th best power play in the league. Giving up two shorties didn't cost them the game, but it's a bad habit to get into. After their first three opportunities, they were down a goal and being outshot 5-4.

“Back to the drawing board (on the power play),” London GM and head coach Mark Hunter said with a laugh.

Saint John might have the top six forwards of any major junior team, but the Knights could have the deepest dozen. A first-period shift by the so-called fourth line of youngsters Chris Tierney, Josh Anderson and Bo Horvat pinned the Sea Dogs deep and swung the momentum.

Then, the Rupert brothers made their presence felt.

Now, no one can take their eyes off the Knights.

2012 MEMORIAL CUP

Knights 5, Sea Dogs 3

London goals: Vladislav Namestnikov (2), Max Domi, Seth Griffith, Austin Watson

Saint John goals: Charles-Olivier Roussel, Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Tesink

Next: The Knights face the host Shawinigan Cataractes on Sunday night at 7 p.m. EDT


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