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London advances to Memorial Cup semifinals

by Mike G. Morreale

The London Knights will live to play another day in the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

The Ontario Hockey League champion received goals from six players and got 32 saves from goalie Jake Patterson in a 6-1 victory against the host Saskatoon Blades in the tie-breaker game of the Memorial Cup at Credit Union Centre.

The victory was London's second against Saskatoon in the tournament -- the Knights won 3-2 in the tournament opener during round-robin play on May 17.

London will now face the Portland Winterhawks in the tournament semifinal round on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. The Halifax Mooseheads have already advanced to the final, slated for Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.


May 17 - London 3, Saskatoon 2

May 18 - Halifax 7, Portland 4

May 19 - Saskatoon 5, Halifax 2

May 20 - Portland 6, London 3

May 21 - Halifax 9, London 2

May 22 - Portland 4, Saskatoon 2

May 23 - London 6, Saskatoon 1

May 24, 8 p.m. ET - Semifinals: Portland vs. tie-breaker game winner

May 26, 7 p.m. ET - Finals: Halifax vs. semifinals winner

The Knights will look to do what only the 2009 Windsor Spitfires and last year's Shawinigan Cataractes were able to accomplish -- win the Memorial Cup after winning the tiebreaker game. The Knights lost last year's championship match to Shawinigan.

Saskatoon, which finished the tournament with a 1-3 record, was playing without defenseman Dalton Thrower. The Montreal Canadiens prospect was suspended for a check to the head on Portland forward Taylor Leier midway through the first period of Wednesday's 4-2 loss.

The Knights scored a pair of goals in the second to open a 3-0 lead against the Blades.

Seth Griffith, a Boston Bruins prospect, drove a shot high into the net after taking a feed from Alex Broadhurst on the power play at 11:28 to give London a 2-0 lead. Just 45 seconds later, Chris Tierney collected a great feed from Max Domi and one-timed a shot past Saskatoon Andrey Makarov.

London got goals by Ryan Rupert, Kyle Platzer and Nikita Zadorov in the first 3:22 of the third period to put the game away. Zadorov, who scored his second goal of the tournament, is No. 22 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top 2013 draft-eligible North American skaters; Platzer, who scored his first goal, is No. 110.

Blades coach Lorne Molleken pulled Makarov and replaced him with backup Alex Moodie following Zadorov's goal. Makarov, a Buffalo Sabres prospect, yielded six goals on 37 shots as the Knights outshot Saskatoon 40-33.

Nathan Burns scored with 8:20 remaining to end Patterson's shutout bid.

Saskatoon trailed 1-0 but was given a golden opportunity early in the second period when London defenseman Paxton Leroux received a double minor for checking from behind on Saskatoon's Nick Zajac at 2:19. But the Blades generated one shot during the four-minute advantage.

Bo Horvat, another top 2013 draft prospect from the Knights, put London ahead 3:24 into the game when he scored on a penalty shot while his team was a man short -- Remi Elie was whistled for tripping 19 seconds earlier. Horvat skated in quickly before slowing up and releasing a shot that Makarov appeared to stop, but the puck found an opening under the blocker and trickled over the goal line.

Getting a first-period lead was just what coach Dale Hunter's team needed. The Knights allowed five goals in the opening period of a 9-2 loss to Halifax on Tuesday, and spotted Portland a 3-0 first-period cushion in a 6-3 setback on Monday.


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