May 19, 2014
LONDON, Ont. — The wall has been looming for the Val-d'Or Foreurs, and the Guelph Storm ran them right into it.
Tuesday night is another day at the Memorial Cup, but from star Anthony Mantha on down through the lineup, Val-d'Or came down to earth in a 6-3 loss to the Guelph Storm on Monday at the Memorial Cup. One can only guesstimate that the Foreurs, who had No. 1 defenceman Guillaume Gélinas leave for the night when he was kneed in the third period by Guelph fourth-liner Chadd Bauman, might be fighting fatigue. It ran the gauntlet of successive seven-game series in Halifax and Baie-Comeau, then won a tournament opener over London that coach Mario Durocher considered an extension of the Q playoffs.
Now that's fading. It might be harsh reality time unless the Foreurs channel a way to come back on Tuesday vs. Edmonton, which is also 1-1.
"For sure I need to bounce back tomorrow, I played a horrible game tonight," said Mantha, who had just one secondary assist on a power-play goal. "I know it myself and my team knows it. I need to be there tomorrow."
Mantha fared decently at overcoming the extra attention from London's Josh Anderson on Friday. Guelph ran a string of wings at the Detroit first-rounder, primarily Carolina Hurricanes pick Brock McGinn. Thanks in part to their star being suppressed, Val-d'Or didn't record a serious chance on Guelph goalie Justin Nichols until the second period. They couldn't negate the Storm's skill at gaining speed through the neutral zone and attacking.
"We tried to play the [Jason] Dickinson line against [Mantha] as much as possible," Storm coach Scott Walker said. "We tried to use the speed that line has. I thought Brock McGinn put the body on him, [Scott] Kosmachuk and Dickinson did the same. He’s a great player so you have to limit his time and space."
The Oil Kings have managed to win here while playing for the second day in a row, which is the challenge Val-d'Or faces. It might also have to do with Gélinas, the Q's leading defenceman scorer in both regular season and playoffs, either out of the lineup or limited by his injured left knee.
"We lost him in the playoffs last year after [winning the first round against] PEI and we had problems against Blainville-Boisbriand," coach Mario Durocher said. "It's going to be a huge loss, but that's hockey.
"Tomorrow we play a bigger team in Edmonton," Durocher added. "They’re not as fast as Guelph. And this is where we need to use our speed more than we did on Monday. We played with Guelph for five minutes in the second period when we scored our two goals.
Defenceman Randy Gazzola and centre Timotej Sille counted 56 seconds apart midway through the second to pare Guelph's lead to 4-2, momentarily making the result seem less foregone. That only raised a temporary glow for the guys in green. Guelph's Robby Fabbri-Kerby Rychel-Zack Mitchell line connected just more than three minutes later. By the end of the frame Guelph was out to a four-goal cushion and goalie Antoine Bibeau had begun resting up for the Oil Kings.
Guelph deserves credit for putting the kibosh on any comeback hopes. But the Foruers, whose bodies might be weary, weren't as sharp from the neck up, according to their coach.
"It's more mental," Durocher said. "After [pulling to within] 4-2 we should challenge more, we should be more confident and we didn’t do that. Our job tomorrow is to build our confidence and give us a chance to come back
"Tomorrow we play a bigger [Edmonton] team. They’re not as fast as Guelph. And this is where we need to use our speed more than we did on Monday. We played with Guelph for five minutes in the second period when we scored our two goals."
Tuesday's opponents could end up meeting again in Friday's semifinal. There is a chance those meetings could be back-to-back if Guelph ousts London on Wednesday.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.