Memorial Cup Knightmare from beginning to end

London Knights goaltender Anthony Stolarz and Tommy Hughes after the Halifax Mooseheads score their...

London Knights goaltender Anthony Stolarz and Tommy Hughes after the Halifax Mooseheads score their 6th goal, during the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Tuesday May 21, 2013. Al Charest/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:41 AM ET

SASKATOON - At the start of this Memorial Cup, everyone was worrying if the host Saskatoon Blades belonged here.

Now, people are starting to wonder about the London Knights, suddenly the weakest link on the ice.

The Halifax Mooseheads slammed five first-period goals past Knights goalie Jake Patterson on their first 10 shots and stomped the OHL champs straight into the tiebreaker game with a 9-2 wipeout before 9,237 Tuesday night at the Credit Union Centre.

“I don't think I've ever been part of a beat-down that bad,” overage defenceman Tommy Hughes said. “Guys hate to lose, whether it's 2-1 or whatever score it was out there. They just kept coming. Before we knew it, we were behind 5-0.

“They came hard and they wanted it more than us.”

London will face Wednesday's Portland-Saskatoon loser on Thursday. In three Memorial Cup appearances, this is the first time the Knights haven't advanced straight to the final

Halifax will get there if the Winterhawks beat the host Blades.

This was a historic Knightmare from beginning to end.

The Knights were the first team to give up nine in a game since the Brandon Wheat Kings were hammered 9-1 by Windsor in the 2010 final. No OHL team has been beaten like this at a Memorial Cup tourney outside of Ontario since the Plymouth Whalers were pounded 8-1 by Milan Lucic and the host Vancouver Giants in 2007.

In 2005, powerhouse London won on home ice by allowing just seven goals all week. This crew gave up eight in under 40 minutes.

Slick Max Domi is a horrific minus-9 through three games.

“It was unacceptable,” Knights forward Matt Rupert said. “It's real embarrassing. It's 5-0 in the first period. It's a big game (Thursday). I don't know why we weren't ready for this one. We have no choice now, but we came back on Barrie (from 3-1 down in the OHL final) and there's no reason we can't come back here.”

“We'll be ready.”

The Knights started Patterson in net, but he only lasted one period before getting the hook. He stopped 6-of-11 shots.

It was the second straight night London changed its goalies.

Will it be Patterson or Anthony Stolarz in the tie-breaker?

“We don't know which one we're playing yet,” Knights coach Dale Hunter said.

The Knights only lost by seven goals once this year. That was a meaningless game in Windsor March 10.

But this is junior hockey's biggest stage.

“I've been on a bigger playing field than this, and a few times, this kind of game happens,” Hunter said. “They're tired (after losing to Portland). They battled back that game to tie the game up. We took a lot of energy to do that and we didn't have the energy we had to have to play well.”

The Knights didn't have sand kicked in their faces by the most famous Mooseheads.

Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin didn't get rolling until Halifax was well ahead. It was the lesser lights who lit them up.

“Brent Andrews and Ryan Falkenham looked like 50-goal scorers out there, off the post and in,” Moose captain Trey Lewis said. “We've got so much depth. That's one of our stronger points. We had a little lapse when we let them get those two back-to-back goals but I guess that's kind of natural when a team gets up 7-0.”

Hunter said he didn't have a problem with Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme running out his top power play guys in a blowout.

“I would do the same thing if I was coaching (them),” Hunter said. “It's good practice time for them. They've got some big games ahead of them, too. We took the penalties and we were responsible for those penalties. I don't coach their team and they can put whoever they want.”

The Knights understand how badly they belly-flopped. They realize a lot of people are laughing at them right now.

“We don't like to pay a whole lot of attention to what other people say,” Hughes said. “We're our own team and from Day 1, we haven't listened to what people say. Everyone has their critics and I think we'll have to overcome that.

“It's quiet in our room. You're not going to be talking about this.”

They have Thursday night to make a lot of people forget what they just saw.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress


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