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Edmonton's Jarry shows mettle in defeat of London

by Ed Klajman

LONDON, Ontario -- It was not the game that was expected from Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry on Saturday, in his first start at the 2014 Memorial Cup.

The 2013 second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 44) allowed five goals on 32 shots as the Western Hockey League champions lost to the Guelph Storm 5-2.

Even Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal described Jarry's performance as "not great."

So how did the 19-year-old react to the disappointment of that game?

He emerged from the locker room the same way he always does after a game, with a big smile on his face.

Not one to waste energy dwelling on anything negative, Jarry was excited about the chance to get into his second Memorial Cup game 24 hours later against the host London Knights.

In a performance that was no surprise to himself, his coach or his teammates, Jarry bounced back Sunday with a strong performance, stopping 38 of 40 shots to backstop Edmonton to a 5-2 win and assuring the Oil Kings of at least appearing in the tiebreaker game.

"When that game [Saturday] is over with, I push it out the door and start focusing for today's game," said Jarry. "I play every game the same. I play the same game as I did the third game of the regular season as this one, and I think it's game 97 or 98 now. I'm going to prepare the same way I always do all season. It doesn't change for me."

That approach is one reason Laxdal was so confident in his goalie heading into the game.

"I was asked [Sunday] morning in a media scrum, 'Will Tristan bounce back?' And I said for sure," Laxdal said. "We know what Tristan's make-up is, his character. When called upon he made great saves. I thought he was outstanding, with no rebounds kicking out and making the first save."

A critical moment in the game came in the first period with Edmonton up 1-0. London center and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ryan Rupert was hauled down on a breakaway by Edmonton defender Ashton Sautner. A penalty shot was awarded to Rupert, who was stopped when he tried to beat Jarry between his pads.

"I want him to make the first move," said Jarry, who gained valuable experience in 1-on-1 situations at Penguins training camp in September, when he was on the ice against NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "Once he commits to his move I'm going to commit to mine. As he came across I was lucky enough to get the heel of my stick on it and it just went into my pads so I was fortunate enough that it didn't squeak through."

Jarry said it's that kind of sound positioning he believes is one of his three greatest strengths as a goaltender. The other two he listed as his mental game, anchored by that always cheery disposition, and his puckhandling, which he said he works particularly hard at developing.

Instead of freezing the puck he's always looking to create an offensive opportunity, making him potentially an ideal fit for the offensively gifted Penguins and no doubt a reason why the team chose him so early in the draft despite the fact he wasn't Edmonton's starter last season.

"I always make sure I look up ice and see what their team's doing," Jarry said. "If their team is giving us a little bit of space, obviously we want to make a quick transition and see if we can catch someone. So I think our defensemen do a very good job with that as they split to the corner for me and I'm able to make the pass for that. I think it's good for us. We move the puck up quickly."

One of the team's key offensive weapons at the receiving end of the transition game is Edgars Kulda, who led the Oil Kings on Sunday with two goals and an assist.

The 19-year-old was undrafted last June and is No. 145 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft. He's aware that his great game Sunday certainly didn't hurt his draft prospects, and said his self-belief he can become an NHL player is stronger than ever.

"I think my game stepped up compared to last year, but I still think I have something more to give with this team," he said. "I have the confidence that I can make it. You need to have it to try to make it to the pros, so I have confidence in myself of what I can do on the ice. But I try not to think about it too much. My job is to go onto the ice and try to do everything for my team to win."

The Oil Kings play their final round-robin game on Tuesday against the Val-d'Or Foreurs.

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