SASKATOON — Sometimes, says Martin Frk, it’s hard to play alongside Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon on the Halifax Mooseheads’ top line. They are supremely talented, but he admits they can also get a little petulant when he’s unable to finish off a nice passing play with a goal or hit the dynamic duo with a sweet set-up.
On Tuesday night at the 2013 Memorial Cup, however, Frk showed why he was placed on the same line with the two highly touted future NHLers. He sent a reminder that he, too, is a special player in his own right with a hat trick and an assist in a 9-2 rout over the OHL champion London Knights.
“I got great passes from them and I had to put it (in the net),” Frk said. “I hope the boys (Drouin and MacKinnon) are not too mad at me. They always get a little bit cranky, but I try to do my best. I guess I did today and they are happy.”
Very happy, actually. And as far as MacKinnon is concerned, it’s a mutual admiration society since he and Drouin are thankful to be playing with the 19-year-old Detroit Red Wings prospect.
“He’s a second-round pick and a signed NHL player,” said MacKinnon of Frk. “He got over 80 points this year and he helps us out a lot. He’s an unbelievable player and he’s got a hell of a shot and really works hard. He touches all three zones really well. I think we’re really lucky to play with him as well because he creates a lot of space for us and it’s awesome.”
After the game Frk – pronounced Furk – was wearing the smelly fur coat the team has presented to its player of the game throughout the playoffs.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Frk of scoring the hat trick. “It probably doesn’t happen very often. This is my first Memorial Cup and my last one so I just have to enjoy it.”
The native of Pelhrimov, Czech Republic, was flashing a big smile – complete with the missing tooth he lost back in 2011 after taking a slapshot in the face.
Frk is just another weapon in a large arsenal at the team’s disposal. Sometimes with the focus so much on Drouin and MacKinnon, especially with the attention they’re getting for next month’s NHL draft, it’s easy to forget the kind of talent Frk possesses.
“He’s really strong, he’s a strong kid on the puck,” said Halifax head coach Dominique Ducharme. “He’s got great hands and a shot & quite a shot – a pro shot. When Marty plays that way and he’s involved and using his tools like that obviously he’s dangerous. Playing with Nathan and Jo, that’s three guys with a lot of skills. When they move and they’re intense and on the puck they make a lot of things happen.”
The majority of things happening on Tuesday night involved Halifax putting the puck behind beleaguered London goalies Jake Patterson and Anthony Stolarz.
The Knights had their hands full with the trio, which combined for 11 points. The play of the MacKinnon-Drouin-Frk unit also opened up the game for some of the Mooseheads’ secondary scorers like Darcy Ashley, Stefan Fournier and Brent Andrews to contribute.
This one was pretty much over after 20 minutes with the Mooseheads holding a 5-0 lead.
“That’s embarrassing,” said Knights forward Matt Rupert. “It was a brutal effort. You can’t start by giving up five goals against these good teams. It’s hard to come back from a 5-0 (deficit). It’s just a joke right now.
“Maybe we just weren’t focused enough? I don’t know. We just didn’t come out to play.”
Halifax’s top line – particularly Drouin and MacKinnon – put on a passing clinic every time they were in the Knights zone with Frk managing to finish the job. That allowed them to easily poke holes in London’s defence, something they’ve done to opponents all year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“Obviously when you’re playing against (London’s top defencemen Scott Harrington and Olli Maatta) you really want to spread out the ice as much as you can and try to get them moving,” said MacKinnon. “They play man-to-man so we wanted to get a good cycle game going and beat our guys back to the net. We did that and lanes opened up.”
The win was important to Halifax because it helped the ‘Q’ champs avoid the tiebreaker with a 2-1 record. The worst that can happen to the Mooseheads now is to play in Friday’s semifinal. A win by Portland on Wednesday in their game against the host Saskatoon Blades would give the Herd a bye into Sunday’s final.
So, you know exactly who the Mooseheads be cheering for in that game.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t (cheering for Portland),” said MacKinnon. “It’s out of our hands, so we can’t get too worked up over that kind of stuff, but getting a couple extra days of rest would be nice.”