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Shawinigan wins, advances to Memorial Cup semifinal

by Adam Kimelman

The Shawinigan Cataractes certainly didn't look like a team that had lost an emotional game 24 hours earlier.

Defenseman Morgan Ellis had a goal and two assists tournament scoring leader Michael Chaput added a pair of assists as the host Cataractes scored the game's first six goals en route to a 6-1 victory against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the tiebreaker game at the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup at Bionest Centre in Shawinigan, Que.

Yannick Veilleux, Anton Zlobin, Kirill Kabanov and Michael Bournival also scored and goalie Gabriel Girard made 29 saves for Shawinigan, which will play a third game in as many nights Friday when it faces the Saint John Sea Dogs in the semifinals.

It's a rematch of Wednesday's preliminary-round finale, when the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rivals combined for more than 70 penalty minutes in a nasty, physical game won 4-1 by Saint John, the defending Memorial Cup champion.

"We're excited to be in the semifinal of the Memorial Cup," defenseman Brandon Gormley said. "It doesn't matter who you're playing, you're one game away from a championship game."

Shawinigan coach Eric Veilleux said he's confident his team will do just fine playing its third game in 72 hours.

"We'll take care of the way we need to be playing [Friday]," he said. "That's what our focus is going to be. I'll be starting [game planning] in a half an hour."

The winner of the semifinal game will play the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights in the championship game Sunday.

Shawinigan is aiming to become the first host team to win the Memorial Cup since the Vancouver Giants in 2007. They're also trying to become just the third team in tournament history to reach the final after going through the tiebreaker game. Only the 2002 Victoriaville Tigres and 2009 Windsor Spitfires accomplished that feat, with only the Spitfires winning the tournament.

Three games in three nights is a daunting task, but with two-thirds of the task accomplished, the players feel ready for one more big game. Having a month-long break between their elimination from the QMJHL playoffs and the start of the Memorial Cup provided all the rest they need.

"We're not concerned about that," Gormley said when asked if his team would be tired Friday. "We had that pretty big break before."

"We're well-prepared for that situation," Bournival added. "We had that big month before the Memorial Cup. We would skate a lot and we're in the top shape as we've ever been before."

Henrik Samuelsson scored the lone goal for Edmonton, the Western Hockey League champions, who had opened the tournament last Friday with a 4-3 win against Shawinigan.

Coach Veilleux said he was hoping his team could have a better start than the one it had in Wednesday against Saint John, when the Sea Dogs scored in the first five minutes and led 2-0 after one period.

The Cataractes scored twice in the first period, with both goals set up by Gormley, the Phoenix Coyotes' 2010 first-round pick. He had a pair of assists and was a plus-4.

At 7:30 of the first, he threw a puck on net that Yannick Veilleux got a piece of to tip past Edmonton goalie Laurent Brossoit, who allowed six goals on 31 shots.

"It's hard to create stuff down low and you have to get point shots through to help your forwards out and I thought we did a great job [Thursday]," Gormley said.

Then, with Edmonton's Tyler Maxwell in the penalty box, Ellis one-timed a Gormley pass from the left circle past Brossoit with 2:59 left in the first.

"We knew we had to bounce back from the last game," Ellis said. "They [Edmonton] are a good team and we had to play our best. We played pretty good [Thursday]. We have to be better [Friday]."

Shawinigan blew the game open early in the second with a pair of goals 62 seconds apart.

Anton Zlobin, a prospect for the 2012 NHL Draft, skated through the slot to redirect a Chaput shot past Brossoit just 1:54 into the period.

The assist was Chaput's fifth, and gave the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect a tournament-leading eight points in four games.

Just 1:02 later, Kirill Kabanov was the recipient of a strange carom. The New York Islanders draft pick fired a shot that went high over the net, but bounced off the glass, hit Brossoit in the stick and rolled across the goal line at 2:56 to make it 4-0.

"I thought we had a great meeting [Wednesday]," Eric Veilleux said. "The guys were disappointed and all that. [Thursday] was just a matter of one game -- that one game. Now we know what that means. … Right now it's do or die every game."

A pair of Montreal Canadiens prospects combined to make it 5-0. Ellis, a 2010 fourth-round pick, pulled a puck off the wall in the Edmonton end during a Cataractes power play. He skated into the left circle and found Bournival, a 2010 draft pick acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche in November 2010, alone on back door for a slam-dunk goal at 8:11.

Morin's shorthanded goal made it 6-0. With teammate Vincent Arseneau in the penalty box, Morin intercepted a Kristians Pells pass at the Shawinigan blue line, broke in alone and beat Brossoit.

Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal said he never thought of removing Brossoit, a Calgary Flames prospect.

"LB [Brossoit] has been outstanding," Laxdal said. "His growth has been instrumental to our success. This was a great experience for him. … It's tough, LB has been the guy all year, and he has to go through that process. I'm looking at his future. When you stumble a bit in a tournament, you have to go through that process in the bad times and the good times."

Samuelsson, No. 75 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, scored at 16:50, taking advantage of a bad Shawinigan line change. Team captain Mark Pysyk, a 2010 first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, found a streaking Samuelsson ahead of all five Shawinigan skaters. He broke in alone on Girard and scored second goal of the tournament.

Laxdal said the post-game message to his team -- which was the youngest in the tournament -- was to be proud of what it accomplished in winning the WHL and getting to the Memorial Cup. He said he expects to have back 20 of the 25 players on his roster.

"Message at the end of the game was we had a great season," he said. "We won 50 games in the Western Hockey League, 67 including playoffs, 68 with the win here. It was an outstanding season for our group. Our players should walk out of the dressing room with their heads held high. … Our guys deserve a pat on the back. The message tonight was to get to [2013 Memorial Cup host] Saskatoon next year. The old saying is before you win, you have to lose. Yeah, we won the Western Hockey League, but our goal next year is to win the Memorial Cup. We lost this year and next year we'll be a little more hungrier."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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