No call to cheer or panic just yet at Memorial Cup

Knights defenceman Dakota Mermis sends Foreurs forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel flying as they connect...

Knights defenceman Dakota Mermis sends Foreurs forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel flying as they connect mid-ice during their Memorial Cup round-robin game in London, Ont., on Friday, May 16, 2014. (Craig Glover/QMI Agency)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:14 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - There is neither need to panic nor need to get excited.

While London lost 1-0 Friday night to Val-d’Or, this 2014 Memorial Cup will not be won or lost in one game.

Call the first game of the Memorial Cup tournament Friday in London a discovery game.

The Val d’Or Foreurs and London Knights embarked on a journey of exploration in what promises to be a Memorial Cup with enough twists to satisfy the most ardent hockey fan.

This is just the beginning.

But if there is a favourite in the showcase for junior hockey this year, it would be the Guelph Storm.

Everything else remains open to conjecture.

The Foreurs and Knights were first to take the stage.

There is always great anticipation in seeing what the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League brings to the table.

Their reputation is usually one of a league that likes to run and gun. The question is not whether they can score but how will that league’s representative respond to playing teams who are more physical and better defensively.

How will Quebec teams that are more comfortable playing with the puck than without it, react when that doesn’t happen?

What the Foreurs bring to this Memorial Cup was highlighted before the first period against the Knights was completed.

It is Anthony Mantha.

Danger lurks in either relying on or mistakenly believing one player can mean the success or failure of any team game.

But when Mantha threw his big frame into the Knights zone muscling past a defenceman and swinging the puck into the net past Knights’ goalie Anthony Stolarz, he put his stamp on the tournament. It was his 82nd goal in 82 games. Later in the period he riveted a shot off the post.

The Foreurs move the puck, find the open player and create space but it’s Mantha who can strike with the suddenness of a mamba.

He is a hockey specimen that is still developing.

That is frightening to those who play against him.

Unlike some Quebec teams who tend to be smaller, the Foreurs are large.

In the first period, the Knights outshot the Foreurs 20-9 as the team from the mining town of Val d’Or left most of the defensive work to goaltender Antoine Bibeau.

That 20-minute stint encompassed the issue the Knights would have. How would they react to an almost 40-day layoff?

The lingering fear was the return to the ice of a team that was completely flat, lacking cohesion and competitive edge.

The Knights were affected by the layoff but not because of any of the above.

After two periods the Knights had outshot the Foreurs 33-14 and missed the net from great scoring positions. The Knights went into the third period trailing 1-0 when they should have had at least three or four goals.

Their shooting was horrendous.

While there were times the Knights managed to control the boards with their cycle, it wasn’t consistent enough to create the kind of pressure needed.

But considering it was the first time in weeks they had played competitively, the first time since January they had a full lineup and the pressure they felt at opening a Memorial Cup at home, the first game was more positive than negative.

The shooting will get more accurate, the adrenaline and energy will grow and cobwebs will disappear.

There is still everything to play for and it is all attainable.

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