RED DEER, Alta. – It’s been 54 days since the London Knights last suffered a loss. They will attempt to run their win streak to 17 games when they play in the Memorial Cup final.
Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and Mitch Marner had four assists as London downed the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 5-2 on Tuesday to earn their spot in the tournament’s championship game.
The Knights last dropped a decision in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs on April 1 and have gone undefeated through round-robin play at the Memorial Cup.
“We”re one win away from capping off one of the best seasons in junior hockey history,” said Tkachuk.
“Feels good, kids really worked hard….deserved to win,” said London coach Dale Hunter.
JJ Piccinich, Christian Dvorak and Max Jones also scored for the Knights (3-0).
Marner’s four assists gives him a tournament-best 13 points in three games and leaves him three points off the Memorial Cup record set in 1982 by Jeff Larmer and matched in 1986 by Guy Rouleau.
Timo Meier scored twice for the Huskies (1-2), who won’t know their tournament fate until after the host Red Deer Rebels (1-1) play the WHL champion Brandon Wheat Kings (0-2) in the final preliminary-round game on Wednesday.
Tyler Parsons made 30 saves for the win. Chase Marchand stopped 20-of-24 shots in a losing cause.
London went 3 for 7 on the power play while Rouyn-Noranda scored twice on 10 chances with the man advantage. The Knights have nine power-play goals at the tournament. The other three teams have combined for just eight.
Antoine Waked gifted the OHL champions a scoring opportunity just nine seconds into the game when he took a roughing minor while trying to get under the skin of a Knights skater after the whistle.
Jeremy Lauzon took another penalty minutes later and this time London made the QMJHL champions pay. Piccinich scored at 13:54, taking a feed out front of the net from Dvorak to make it 1-0.
Tkachuk doubled London’s lead with another power-play goal with 2:17 left in the first. Tkachuk, the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, was standing at the top of the crease and deflected an Olli Juolevi shot past Marchand.
“(He) definitely has some (Keith in him)…that’s why he’s a great player,” said Hunter.
Zachary Lauzon had to be helped off after being run into the end boards by Chandler Yakimowicz less than four minutes into the second period. Yakimowicz was handed a major and a game misconduct for checking from behind.
Gabriel Fontaine had the best scoring chance for Rouyn-Noranda on the power play, but Parsons got his right pad down to keep it 2-0 London.
Meier finally put the Huskies on the board at the midway point of the period while on the power play after snapping the puck through traffic over Parsons’ glove hand.
Marner was patient as he set up London’s third goal at 17:28, while shorthanded. Marner got Marchand to commit before sliding the puck cross crease to Jones, who had a wide-open net for the finish.
Tkachuk landed awkwardly late in the second and hobbled to the bench with what appeared to be a leg issue, but was back on his regular line to start the third period.
“(I) can’t comment on that,” Tkachuk said when asked if he was playing hurt.
Dvorak made it 4-1 with London’s third power-play goal of the evening at 6:26 of the third, chipping in a rebound from the side of the net after Tkachuk put the puck on goal from between the circles.
“A lot of them weren’t very good penalties but it was both ways,” said Parsons. “Our penalty kill was great tonight, everyone blocking shots, getting the puck out.”
Meier made it a 4-2 score with his second goal of the game at 7:59 while on the power play. The goal needed a video review before it was confirmed.
Tkachuk added another into an empty net for London in the final minute.
Hunter plans to give his team the day off on Wednesday, with the championship game set for Sunday. The semifinal is Friday while, if needed, a tiebreaker game will be played Thursday. The outcome of the Red Deer-Brandon game will determine both.