The Minnesota Wild have missed the playoffs for four straight seasons, but if the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup is any evidence, their future is quite bright.
Wild prospects Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips combined for four points for the Saint John Sea Dogs in their 5-2 win against the Edmonton Oil Kings in preliminary-round play at the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup at Bionest Centre in Shawinigan, Que.
Phillips had a pair of goals and Coyle added a pair of assists as the defending Memorial Cup champions evened their tournament record at 1-1.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Danick Gauthier and Ryan Tesink also scored for Saint John, and goalie Mathieu Corbeil made 25 saves for the Sea Dogs, who are trying to become just the eighth repeat champion in the 94-year history of the Memorial Cup tournament.
Saint John coach Gerard Gallant said he was far happier with the effort he saw in the final two periods from his team, which lost its tournament opener to London on Saturday.
"The first period was as lot of like [Saturday], very disappointed," he said. "I thought guys got their legs in the second and third. … I thought we had a real good start to the game first couple minutes and then it turned off again. I didn't say much after the period but the kids know I was disappointed. We don't play all season long to play like we did the first period. The kids were more satisfied after the game."
"It's really just our work ethic," said Phillips. "When we work hard, there aren't many teams that can beat us."
Kristians Pells and Stephane Legault scored for the Oil Kings, winners of the Western Hockey League, and goalie Laurent Brossoit stopped 29 shots as Edmonton slipped to 1-1.
Since the current tournament was adopted in 1983, it’s the first time all four teams are 1-1.
"No doubt the four teams are evenly matched," Gallant said. "If you slip a little you're going to lose. We competed tonight and we battled tonight and won more one-on-one battles. That's why we won the game."
Phillips, taken by the Wild with the 28th pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, opened the scoring 4:23 into the game when his sharp-angle shot got between Brossoit's pad and the post.
The 6-foot, 175-pound center had 95 points in 67 games last season, and followed that with 80 points in 60 games this season. Better were his playoff numbers, as he 32 points in 17 games were second in the QMJHL.
Phillips was taken by the Wild with a pick acquired from the San Jose Sharks last June as part of the trade that sent Brent Burns to the Sharks.
Also coming to the Wild in that trade was Coyle, who had been drafted by the Sharks with the 28th pick of the 2010 draft. He was the key piece demanded by the Wild in the Burns trade.
After Pells tied the game when he tipped a Henrik Samuelsson shot past Corbeil, Coyle sprung Sea Dogs captain Jonathan Huberdeau for a breakaway goal at 4:42 of the second that gave Saint John a lead it would not relinquish.
Later in the second, Coyle struck again, this time pulling up off the rush and firing a shot that Brossoit stopped, but the Calgary Flames prospect couldn't deny Paquette on the rebound to make it 3-1 at 15:53.
Coyle's move last summer from the Sharks to the Wild was just one of many moves for Coyle since being drafted. The East Weymouth, Mass., native played a year and a half at Boston University, but after an outstanding turn for the U.S. at the 2012 World Junior Championship -- he had four goals in six games -- he left the Terriers for Saint John. He spent the second half of the season adjusting to the style of play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and then tied teammate Stanislav Galiev for the QMJHL playoff scoring lead with 34 points in 17 games.
"Charlie competed," Gallant said. "He's a big strong guy in our lineup. We use him on big faceoffs, penalty kills. Charlie's been one of our go-to guys this year."
Edmonton got a goal back just 63 seconds later when Legault took a pass from Samuelsson and beat Corbeil at 16:56.
But that was all Corbeil, a fourth-round 2010 pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, would allow. Corbeil stopped 19 of 20 shots over the final two periods as he auditions for a contract from the Blue Jackets. Columbus GM Scott Howson was in attendance and has publicly said he would determine after the Memorial Cup if he would offer Corbeil a contract or let him go back into the draft.
"The teams are so good here, if you want to turn pucks over you're going to pay a heavy price for it," Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal said. "When you play teams like this, they're going to strike quick."
Phillips scored his second goal with 1:37 left when his stayed high in the offensive zone as linemates Stanislav Galiev and Tomas Jurco outworked Edmonton in its zone, with Jurco sending a pass from below the goal line to Phillips, who one-timed it past Brossoit from the high slot.
Ryan Tesink closed the scoring with an empty-net goal with just under five seconds remaining.
Each team has one game left in round-robin play in the preliminary round. Edmonton will face the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights on Tuesday, while Saint John will face the host Shawinigan Cataractes on Wednesday.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK