May 22, 2014
No. 1 Star - Scott Kosmachuk, Guelph Storm
Not a huge surprise here. The Winnipeg Jets prospect Kosmachuk scored a hat-trick during the final game of the round robin, taking advantage of open space in the slot all night. Kosmachuk, who know leads the MasterCard Memorial Cup in points with six in three games, opened the scoring on a one-touch pass from linemate Brock McGinn, and scored the second goal as well, giving Guelph a 2-0 lead when a rebound karomed directly onto his stick in the high slot.
Five more goals were scored between the time Kosmachuk brought the score to 2-0 and the time Kosmachuk completed his hat-trick, but he eventually got there, with a one-touch finish from a Kerby Rychel setup. That's maximum puck efficiency for Kosmachuk on the night—on each of his goals, he only had to touch the puck once before it went in. Read into that what you will, but I'd prefer to think of it as a sign at how dominant Guelph was against the London defence in a 7-2 win, moving the puck at will in the offensive zone.
No. 2 Star - Justin Nichols, Guelph Storm
And yet as good as the Storm were on offence, they were pretty lacklustre defensively. Some of that is to be expected: teams that take a bit lead for much of the game tend to get out-shot for the rest of the contest. London actually out-shot Guelph 47-38, and it wasn't until the third period the Storm began to pull away in the third. Had Justin Nichols not played as well as he did, this game isn't the laugher.
Nichols got off to a fantastic start, standing tall on a jam play in front of his net, robbing Chandler Yakimowicz on a cross-crease play, and barely flinching on a hard shot from Alex Basso, all before the game was even six minutes old. In the second, Nichols had to make another important stop off Bo Horvat from a rebound, and was perfect on every shot he had a chance on, making two excellent saves prior to Josh Anderson's 3-2 goal in the second.
More importantly, while Val-d'Or's Antoine Bibeau has rightfully earned accolades for his performance, it should be worth noting that Nichols actually wound up with a higher save percentage after the round robin. By stopping 45 of 47 shots Wednesday, Nichols has a .941 save percentage for the entire tournament, and now just has one game left.
No. 3 Star - Tyler Bertuzzi, Guelph Storm
Bertuzzi played his role as an agitator to perfection Wednesday, throwing two big bodychecks in the first period, scoring two goals in a blowout, and returning to the game after drawing a two-minute minor for the knee-on-knee collision with Nikita Zadorov late in the second period. Bertuzzi has the distinction of being the only player to score a goal in each of his team's three games this tournament, and is up to five on the tournament, to lead all skaters. His second goal against London, to give the Storm a two-goal lead for good, wound up being the major difference.
Unfortunately, Bertuzzi doesn't have a lot of pull with officials. Many were surprised to see Zadorov earn just two minutes for tripping after kneeing Bertuzzi, when earlier in the game, Zack Mitchell was ejected for taking out Dakota Mermis (and for that matter, another Storm player, Chadd Bauman, got an ejection and a suspension for a similar hit earlier in the tournament). The explanation coach Scott Walker got was that the referee thought Bertuzzi was smiling after the collision when it turned out he was grimacing.
Honourable Mention - Dakota Mermis, London Knights: Mermis was the subject of a snuff film for the first period, unfortunately. He got wiped out by Mitchell's knee, minutes after blocking a high slapshot from Nick Ebert and slowly making his way to the bench. Mermis took a lot of pain in the first, but didn't let that change his play style as he was still aggressive with his rushing and shot blocking for the rest of the game. His toughness is worth a nod even if his London team got blown out.
Game Grade: C. Thus far, we've only had two games that have given us anything in the way of third period drama, which is a disturbing trend as we approach the Semifinal and Final. While Guelph has played like a well-oiled machine all tourney, blowing out every opponent they've faced and wound up being the only team with a positive goal differential, London disappointed after their month off, going nearly seven full periods before their high-end forward group managed to score a single goal.