Every team wants to make history, but the London Knights will go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons.
After a 7-2 loss to the Guelph Storm on Wednesday (May 21) at Budweiser Gardens, the Knights etch their name as the first host team to go 0-3 in the Memorial Cup round robin since the Quebec Remparts did it in 2003.
With the loss, London will also be remembered as the first club to make it to three consecutive Canadian Hockey League championships and not win once since the introduction of a fourth team in the national tourney.
With 14 players on the Knights roster in at least their third-year with the club and a majority of those playing the last game of their career in London, this is not how the Knights wanted to go out.
“I thought our organization really deserved one after all the hard work we’ve been putting in over the past three years and obviously it’s too bad,” said third-year Knight winger Josh Anderson. “We thought for sure we had a better chance at winning it this year and again we didn’t have the bounces we wanted and it’s just too bad to end it this way.”
Wednesday’s game and the tournament as a whole for London had a running theme of too little, too late.
The Storm collected seven goals, while the Edmonton Oil Kings scored five times in their win over the Knights on Sunday (May 18). London only managed four goals in three games.
None of the Knights goals in the Memorial Cup were put in by any of their top-five scorers from the regular season. Anderson and Brett Welychka, who both scored London’s goals Wednesday, were the only Knight forwards to find the back of the net in the national championships.
“We need everyone scoring, not just our best players,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t have enough.”
Despite the lopsided scoreboard Wednesday, London did some things right.
The Rupert Bros. agitated Guelph, something they didn’t do in the rest of the tournament. Anderson and teammate Bo Horvat stood tall in front of the Storm’s net, which nobody had really done in the team’s 1-0 shutout loss to the Val-d’Or Foreurs to start the Memorial Cup. Forget just second chances, London was getting third and fourth opportunities on Guelph which was lacking in their 5-2 beat down by Edmonton.
Where the wheels came off for the Knights was in the third period where they gave up three unanswered goals.
“We all came out knowing we had to win the game and it was do-or-die, but after the game, seeing the scoreboard and knowing you’re not going to play another game is definitely hard,” Anderson said.
London netminder Anthony Stolarz was pulled — for the second game in a row — early in the second frame after Tyler Bertuzzi shot the puck wide, only to have the piece of rubber bounce off the boards, ricochet off the Knights goalie and trickle into the net.
There is no such thing as hockey gods and lady luck is used for excuses to lick wounds.
There is, however, such a thing as poor penalty kills, with London giving up three goals while down a man against Guelph.
Taking too many penalties can be an issue and the Knights were forced to kill six more infractions than their opponents all tournament.
Puny power plays can be listed as a reason for losses and London only scored once on 12 man advantages in the Memorial Cup.
Not putting pucks away is a problem and the Knights had 138 shots, scoring less than three percent of their pucks on net.
With red eyes from tears and few words used by Knight players during the post-game interviews, it was clear that the team wasn’t making any excuses for what happened.
“It sucks to lose obviously, I’m kind of at a loss for words,” said Knights forward Max Domi. “When you play that hard and come together as a team like that over the month, to not play hockey games is a tough pill to swallow. We’re all going to learn from it and move forward in our careers.”
The Knights dropped worse and worse since their first Memorial Cup run over the last three years. In 2012 London came one goal from claiming the title. In 2013 the Knights lost in the semifinal. This time around they couldn’t get a win.
London had everything to lose Wednesday and only a little to gain. If they won they would play at least one more day. Lose and they go down in the history books as anything but a winner.
While a lot of people will remember the Knights as the team that lost three straight Memorial Cups, the players on those squads will look back on the things they have accomplished.
“I know a few days down the road it’s definitely going to hit me,” Welychka said about the loss. “One positive thing I’ll take out of it is a lot of guys don’t come this far in the hockey season, so I’m not going to take anything for granted and I was fortunate enough to play in the Memorial Cup.”