Brandon faces Red Deer on Wednesday night
Red Deer, AB – The London Knights flexed their offensive muscle in Red Deer on Monday, treating the 7,292 in attendance at the ENMAX Centrium to a show of dominance in a 9-1 win over the WHL champion Brandon Wheat Kings.
London’s 15th straight win featured a hat-trick from co-captain Christian Dvorak while six others found the back of the net to push the Knights to 2-0 heading into a matchup with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Tuesday.
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner recorded four assists in the win, giving him nine points through two games, the most by any player at the MasterCard Memorial Cup since Portland’s Nic Petan had 10 in 2013.
“Everyone’s buying in right now and the secondary scoring has been huge for us and was again tonight,” said Dvorak, whose hat-trick was the first at the MasterCard Memorial Cup since Guelph’s Scott Kosmachuk recorded one against the Knights in 2014. “In both these games we’ve gotten ourselves early power play opportunities and made the most of them and taken out early leads.”
While London’s big line of Marner, Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk combined for 10 points for the second time in as many games, the unit of Max Jones, Aaron Berisha and Cliff Pu was also involved in the offence, putting together seven combined points.
“We’ve been playing together for awhile,” said Jones, who was the game’s third star with a goal and an assist. “At the start of the OHL playoffs we were really clicking and then I got suspended and that put things on hold for a little bit. We’re shaking off the rust now and we’re putting up points, producing chances and if we keep that up it helps our team a lot.”
The speed of Dvorak drew the Knights’ first power play in the opening five minutes of the first, leading the Arizona C oyotes second rounder scoring the night’s opening goal on a cross-crease feed from linemate Matthew Tkachuk at 4:35.
The Knights extended their lead before the midway point of the first as 45-goal scorer Aaron Berisha drove down the wing, sending a shot off Jordan Papirny’s pad that provided a rebound for an oncoming Pu who made it 2-0 at 7:50.
The Wheat Kings had a golden opportunity cut into the London lead but Tyler Parsons denied Tim McGauley on a shorthanded breakaway before the Knights would tack on two more before the end of the frame.
Jones would find Berisha in the high slot on the power play at 14:36 for his second of the MasterCard Memorial Cup and Tkachuk would beat Papirny on a centering feed from Marner at 19:29.
London led 4-0 and outshot Brandon 14-9 in the first, going 2-for-3 on the man advantage.
The Knights continued to execute early in the second as JJ Piccinich finished off a nice setup by linemate Chandler Yakimowicz, but the Wheat Kings would get on the board moments later to give the gold in the crowd something to cheer about.
Former WHL Bantam Draft first overall pick Stelio Mattheos capitalized on the power play, walking to the slot on a delayed penalty before beating Parsons on the glove side to bring Brandon within four, down 5-1.
London would add another power play marker on Dvorak’s second of the night 13 seconds into a man advantage at 10:51.
Jones rounded out the second period scoring out of the penalty box, opting to shoot on a two-on-one rush and beat Papirny to put London ahead 7-1 into the intermission.
Dvorak completed the hat-trick in the opening minute of the third period, greeting Brandon goaltending replacement Logan Thompson by stuffing a rebound through his legs. Marner picked up his fourth assist on the play.
Daniel Bernhardt would score London’s ninth goal at 2:44, capitalizing for their fourth power play marker as the Knights would finish the game 4-for-8 with the man advantage.
Brendan Burke took over in the London goal late in the game as head coach Dale Hunter opted to rest Parsons for Tuesday’s tilt against Rouyn-Noranda. Parsons turned aside 24 of 25 shots on the night while Burke made 11 saves as London was outshot 36-31 in the lopsided victory.
London’s 15 goals through two games puts them on a level pace with the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires who scored 15 in their opening two games in Brandon that year.
The Knights are back in action on Tuesday at 8:00pm MT/10:00pm ET on Sportsnet while the Wheat Kings are off until Wednesday when they face the Red Deer Rebels in a rematch of the WHL Eastern Conference Finals at 6:00pm MT/8:00pm ET.