Game One – Val d’Or Foreurs vs. London Knights
2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup Round Robin
With Val d’Or coming off a league victory just 72 hours prior to Friday night’s puck drop and the Knights with their month long layover there were many questions about the pace of the game and it definitely started out slow as both teams got their lines out, Val d’Or playing a safe and secure game while the Knights went through the motions. As the first period went on, London started developing more and more scoring chances. Players like Bo Horvat (Vancouver), Max Domi (Phoenix), Mitch Marner (2015 NHL Eligible) and Christian Dvorak (2014 NHL Eligible) lead the charge of scoring chances created but a few outstanding glove saves by Antoine Bibeau (Toronto) combined with a few missed nets in close kept the Knights scoreless. At the other end of the rink, Val d’Or’s chances were few and far between but a great pass on the rush by Samuel Henley (Colorado) to Anthony Mantha (Detroit) who beat Brady Austin (Buffalo) wide left then cut across the slot making a great move to beat Anthony Stolarz (Philadelphia) to make it 1-0 Foreurs’ after one period.
In the second there was plenty of back and forth. The physicality on both sides really picked up as well. Again as the period went on the London Knights created the majority of the scoring chances. However, much like the first period the Knights’ were held scoreless by goaltender Antoine Bibeau and their own inaccuracy. Going into the third period the Knights were pressing hard to find some way to beat the Foreurs’ goaltender. A few of these risky plays turned into odd man rushes for Val d’Or, but Anthony Stolarz, who had only faced 14 shots through the first 40 minutes made some outstanding saves to keep this game 1-0, knowing another goal would all but seal the victory for Val d’Or. As the clock winded down players like Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner were rewarded with extra ice time to try and create the tying goal, but Val d’Or shut the door and Bibeau recorded the first shutout at the MasterCard Memorial Cup in almost three years.
HOCKEYPROSPECT.COM THREE STARS OF THE GAME
First Star, Antoine Bibeau, Goaltender, Val d’Or Foreurs
Bibeau was selected 172nd Overall in 2013 by the Toronto Maple Leafs as a re-entry prospect. Bibeau posted a 51 save shutout to open the tournament; the most ever by a goaltender in a shutout performance at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. Bibeau displayed a strong glove hand which he used to make a few outstanding saves early on in the game. As the Knights adjusted and tried to force him side to side the 6’2”, 209lb goaltender was able to answer the challenge and made one outstanding save in particular going side to side in the third. Antoine was without a doubt the single biggest reason Val d’Or walked out of Budweiser Gardens with a win and was one of the most dominant goaltending performances at a MasterCard Memorial Cup game in recent memory.
Second Star, Anthony Mantha, Right Wing, Val d’Or Foreurs
Anthony was selected 20th Overall by the Detroit Red Wings at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. His biggest concern going into the draft was consistency. He could dominate a game one night and be invisible the other. Well, tonight the dominant side of Mantha showed itself as it did throughout most of this season for the Foreurs’. Mantha’s strongest asset is his outstanding shot. During the season Anthony had 57 goals in 57 regular season games. 24 goals in 24 playoff games, and now has the only MasterCard Memorial Cup goal in his first MasterCard Memorial Cup Game. While he scored utilizing his puck handling ability and speed to beat the defender and the goaltender, his shot was on display multiple times creating scoring chances. You could sense the level of urgency in the defenders when Mantha had the puck. In addition to his offensive skills, Mantha showed the ability to use his size and delivered some solid hits. His biggest opponent is himself. If he can fight off the inconsistency that concerned teams at last year’s NHL Draft, he gives Val d’Or a chance in every single game.
Third Star, Samuel Henley, Centre, Val d’Or Foreurs
After attending multiple NHL camps, Henley was signed by the Colorado Avalanche just weeks before the MasterCard Memorial Cup, and what an excellent signing it was. Samuel was most noted for his excellent pass to Mantha to set up the only goal in Val d’Or’s 1-0 victory, but he went well beyond that in this game. Henley is a huge power forward and while his offensive game has grown a lot over the last two years he hasn’t lost his edge. He protects the puck well and without the puck will run over anyone in his way. He’s extremely strong and engages against the top team’s biggest players and doesn’t back down. His leadership on and off the ice is represented by the “C” on his jersey. While he’s a top line forward and produced over a point per game in the playoffs, Henley isn’t above working hard in the defensive zone and blocking shots. The way he sacrificed his body for the benefit of his team in all three zones played a key part in Val d’Or’s victory, even if it only looks like one assist in the stat column.
Underrated Performance of the Game
Christian Dvorak, Centre, London Knights
Dvorak played in his first game in over five months coming back from knee surgery. He was placed on the fourth line and not much was expected after the long lay over. He was expected to go through the motions, get back into the swing of things and get comfortable on the ice. However no one told Dvorak this. Christian came out right off the bat working extremely hard, creating turnovers and was a key part in creating scoring chances for the Knights’ all night long. Christian was one of the Knights’ most effective players and was rewarded with increased ice time with veteran forwards. Dvorak’s performance wasn’t limited to the offensive zone and he made a few key plays on the back check utilizing his stick to break up plays. Christian’s play was nothing short of inspirational and hopefully he is able to play at this level all tournament long.