The London Knights have put the rest of the MasterCard Memorial Cup field on notice, their offence is a force.
Showing no signs of slowing down, the Knights top line torched the Rebels for six goals in the opening two periods.
And the host team just could not keep up with the Ontario Hockey League Champions.
Mitchell Marner led the way with two goals and three assists as the Knights cruised to an 6-2 win Friday night at the Centrium. Not to be outdone, his linemate Christian Dvorak had two goals and two assists.
“All three of us have been working together really well,” said Marner. “We came out too slow and they pushed the pace on us. But after that, we weathered the storm and realized how hard we have to play against these guys.
The Rebels rust showed, having not played since April 29 when they were eliminated by the Brandon Wheat Kings. Despite some jump in the opening 10 minutes, it wasn’t long before the Knights’ Marner, Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk line took over the game.
“We took 30 minutes off after the penalty I took,” said Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter called it a bad penalty, for roughing at 13:28 of the first period, and the floodgates opened.
“We went through 30 minutes of hockey where we didn’t play well at all and they generated a lot of offence from that,” said Sutter.
“We got what we deserved tonight.”
Bad penalties have been a reoccurring theme for the Rebels, and Sutter pointed to the first one as a catalyst for their downfall.
“From that point we started doing things that, throughout the year, got us in trouble,” said Sutter. “We weren’t assertive enough, we didn’t play with the emotion we need to have and we had breakdowns. We needed someone to take charge and no one grabbed the bull by the horns.”
The Knights opened with a give-and-go goal led by Marner who fired a pass behind the red line to Tkachuk who then found an open Berisha in the slot, he beat Toth glove side. From there, the Knights took over the game scoring six straight goals.
Knights head coach Dale Hunter credited his goalie Tyler Parsons for keeping the Knights in the game early.
“They came out strong and had some good chances, but Parsons was good early,” said Hunter. “Every good team has a great goalie protecting the mistakes we do make.”
Despite only five shots in the second period and letting in three more goals, the Rebels found a way to get on the board. A Colton Bobyk blast was tipped in front by Luke Philp and past Parsons. The Knights still maintained a stranglehold on the game at 6-1.
Adam Helewka had the other Rebels’ goal, a one-time blast from the left faceoff circle on the powerplay.
“There’s not a better learning tool than what we had here tonight,” said Sutter.
“We have to learn from it, we have to learn from it quickly and we have to get back at it. We’ll get back to our practice tomorrow.”
Sutter closed out the game playing nine forwards and four or five defenceman to try to get his players ready to play at the Memorial Cup.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Brandon Wheat Kings start their tournament tonight at the Centrium, puck drop is at 5 p.m.
Notes: Conner Bleackley returned to the lineup after missing all of playoffs with a wrist injury. His wrist was cut by a skate in a freak accident while playing the Edmonton Oil Kings … Jake DeBrusk’s father Louie DeBrusk played junior hockey with the London Knights … A high-octane offence, the Knights boast a prolific top line of Marner, Dvorak and Tkachuk who all had 100 point regular seasons. In the playoffs they combined to score 109 points in 18 games … Attendance at the Centrium was 7,292.