Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha showed why he might be the best pure scorer in the junior hockey ranks.
The 20th player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft scored a spectacular goal in the first period as the Val-d'Or Foreurs, champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, opened play at the 2014 Memorial Cup with a 1-0 win against the host London Knights at Budweiser Gardens.
Val-d'Or goaltender Antoine Bibeau, a 2013 sixth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, stopped all 51 shots he saw for the first shutout in a Memorial Cup game since St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Binnington of the Owen Sound Attack had one in 2011.
2014 Memorial Cup schedule
All times EST
Val-d'Or 1, London 0
Guelph vs. Edmonton, 4 p.m. (7:30 p.m., NHLN-US)
London vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m. (NHLN-US)
Guelph vs. Val-d'Or, 7 p.m. (May 20, 1 p.m., NHLN-US)
Edmonton vs. Val-d'Or, 7 p.m. (May 21, 1 p.m., NHLN-US)
London vs. Guelph, 7 p.m. (May 22, 1 p.m., NHLN-US)
“[Bibeau] was outstanding," Val-d'Or coach Mario Durocher said. "Our goalie was really good and there were no second shots most of the time."
London goalie Anthony Stolarz, a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, stopped 27 of 28 shots. It was London's first game since April 11, when the Knights lost to the Guelph Storm in the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
It was Stolarz's first game since March 25, when he was suspended eight games for cross-checking Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho-Sang in the head. On April 16 the OHL cut the suspension to six games to allow Stolarz the chance to play in the Memorial Cup opener.
Mantha supplied all the offense Bibeau needed. Late in the first period he broke up a play in the defensive zone and passed to Colorado Avalanche prospect Samuel Henley cutting through the middle of the ice. Henley sent the puck back to Mantha in the right circle in the London end. He stepped around Knights defenseman Brady Austin as he drove to the front of the net and tucked the puck under Stolarz with 3:40 left in the first period.
Mantha was the only player eligible for the 2013 draft last season to score 50 goals. He followed that with QMJHL-high totals of 57 goals and 120 points this season, followed by a league-leading 24 goals in 24 playoff games. He also led Canada with five goals and 11 points in seven games at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Val-d'Or had chances to extend its lead but went 0-for-4 on the power play, including two 5-on-3 chances in the first two periods. Mantha also hit the crossbar in the first period and was stopped on a breakaway in the third.
Bibeau was strong all night. He made 20 saves in the first period, helped the Foreurs kill off all four London power plays and made a number of highlight-reel stops in the third. He had a nice pad save on a breakaway by San Jose Sharks prospect Chris Tierney early in the final period, and minutes later went post-to-post to get a piece of a shot by Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Josh Anderson. He stopped Bo Horvat, a 2013 first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, on a penalty shot with 13:47 left in the final period, then stopped Mitchell Marner from a sharp angle with 2:39 to play and held strong as London crashed the net poking for a rebound.
“It was a critical moment and I’m kind of kicking myself for not scoring,” Horvat told the London Free Press of his penalty-shot miss. "The goalie made a great save on me. I maybe didn't fake him as much as I would've liked to that time. He read it pretty well."
The round-robin tournament continues Saturday when OHL champion Guelph faces the Edmonton Oil Kings, the Western Hockey League champion.