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London Knights win Memorial Cup

Tkachuk's OT goal seals title against Rouyn-Noranda; Marner named MVP

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

RED DEER, Alberta -- Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitchell Marner is going to have to clear more space on his mantle.

One day after being named Canadian Hockey League player of the year, Marner had an assist to help the London Knights to a 3-2 overtime victory against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the Memorial Cup final.

"We really wanted this trophy from Day 1," said Marner, who had points in 20 straight games dating back to the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. "We told ourselves that. We gave ourselves a great shot to do it. Now we're holding it over our heads. We all believed in each other all year long. That's why every time we were down we never gave up on each other and it's been amazing."

Marner was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the Memorial Cup's most valuable player.

He's the first player since Corey Perry to win the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding player, the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the OHL's playoff MVP, and the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy in the same season. Perry also did it with London.

The 19-year-old is also the first since Brad Richards of Rimouski in 2000 to be named his league's regular season MVP, playoff MVP, CHL player of the year and Memorial Cup MVP in the same season.

Marner, taken by the Maple Leafs with the fourth pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, led the tournament with 12 assists and 14 points. He finished two points shy of the Memorial Cup record of 16 shared by Jeff Larmer of Kitchener (1982) and Guy Rouleau of Hull (1986).

"I don't care at all," said Marner, who also represented Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, when asked about the scoring mark. "I didn't care coming into this game. I just wanted to lift that trophy. We accomplished that."

Marner eclipsed 100 regular-season points for the second straight season with 116 points in 57 games. He led all players in scoring during the OHL playoffs with 44 points to help London win the league championship and a Memorial Cup berth.

"Mitch has always been a winner wherever he goes," Knights coach Dale Hunter said. "You can see right now how good he is, how talent he is. More importantly, he'll block a shot at the last minute. He'll do the little things. That's what makes him a complete player."

Marner assisted on the game's first goal at 9:19 of the second period, a deflection by 2016 NHL Draft-eligible forward Matthew Tkachuk that beat Rouyn-Noranda goaltender Chase Marchand.

"[Marner] has been there…he's been one of those guys that had a lot of pressure on him in his draft year," Tkachuk said. "It was good to have him by my side all year, definitely. He is an important piece. It's an understatement."

Ottawa Senators prospect Francis Perron tied the game 15 seconds later, and Julien Nantel, selected in the seventh round (No. 204) of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead at 9:13 of the third period.

Christian Dvorak, an Arizona Coyotes prospect, tied the game 2-2 with 4:11 remaining.

Tkachuk, No. 2 among North American skaters in the final rankings by NHL Central Scouting, scored his second of the game 7:49 into overtime to give London the win.

"There's no way this just happened," Tkachuk said. "I had to make sure. The goalie looked up, and I fell over myself I was so happy. It's special."

Tkachuk's game-winner gave the Knights their 17th consecutive win.

"I'm not a hero," Tkachuk said. "It's just special to be able to help contribute. To end it off like this … Memorial Cup champions … 60 teams and we're the champs. We went through some adversity throughout the year and throughout the first round of the playoffs, but it's one of those things were we won 17 straight for a reason. Different guys step up every night."

The Huskies, champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, were the top-ranked team in the CHL entering the tournament.

"At the end of the day it didn't go our way, but I'm really proud of this group," San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier said. "It's been such a fun ride with those guys. Obviously it hurts to lose, but we won the President Cup. We made history. I'm just lucky to have this opportunity with this kind of group. This group was special. We had such a fun year. We got so tight as a team and it just was a pleasure to be on that team and have such success. It's hard to lose like that."

It's the second time London has won the Memorial Cup. They also won in 2005.

Marner wasn't sure if the Knights' latest win would be his last game as a junior.

"It's kind of hitting me now, but it's all going to rely on the summer time and what I do," he said. "It's not up to me. We'll see when the summer comes and when that decision comes."


What we learned: The Knights are the top team in the CHL. London won its final 17 games en route to winning the OHL title and the Memorial Cup. After beating Owen Sound in six games in the opening round of the OHL playoffs, London swept Kitchener, Erie and Niagara, then went undefeated in four games to win the Memorial Cup.

Key moment: Tkachuk darted down the wing and pulled the puck in before snapping a shot over the shoulder of Marchand 7:49 into overtime to give the Knights the win and the second Memorial Cup title in franchise history.

Player of the game: Tkachuk. Playing on a sprained ankle sustained in the OHL final against Niagara, the 18-year-old scored twice in the championship game. He finished the tournament with five goals and eight points in four games.

Quotable: "I was changing. It's just a surreal moment. It's been a lot of fun. I couldn't see anything. Guys in front of me…I saw [Tkachuk] celebrating. I just tried to get in there as fast as I could." -- Mitchell Marner


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