McKegg Leads London Over to Win
The London Knights acquired Greg McKegg from the Erie Otters in January to add to their offense for what the organization would be a long run through the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and possibly on to the Memorial Cup.
McKegg, a 2010 third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, lost that scoring touch in the postseason, but rediscovered it Tuesday at the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup, scoring his first goal in nearly six weeks as London defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-1 at Bionest Centre in Shawinigan, Que.
"I was glad to see him score," London coach Mark Hunter said. "He's been contributing in other ways. He's been good on faceoffs, good defensively, but it was nice to see him score. Hopefully he gets more."
Ryan Rupert, Bo Horvat and Austin Watson also scored for the Knights, and goalie Michael Houser stopped 20 of 21 shots as London improved to 2-1 in round-robin play.
"I thought our big four [defensemen] were good at getting pucks out," Hunter said. "I thought we were good at all the little things -- getting pucks out, blocking shots -- and it got us a win."
"I don't know if it was textbook, but it was on the right track," added defenseman Scott Harrington said. "We got away from it a little last game [a 6-2 loss to Shawinigan on Wednesday]. We played better this time. Guys were more committed to blocking shots and getting pucks deep and not turning pucks over. That's part of London Knights hockey and that helped us win."
The win means the Knights have a chance to earn a bye into the championship game Sunday. If the Saint John Sea Dogs defeat the Shawinigan Cataractes on Wednesday, that would place the Knights in the final, based on London's 5-3 defeat of the Sea Dogs on Saturday. If Shawinigan wins, the host Cataractes would advance to the final thanks to their 6-2 defeat of the Knights on Sunday, and London would have to play in Friday's semifinal, against the winner of the tie-breaker game.
Hunter said regardless of the result, he was looking forward to his team getting some rest.
"It's huge," he said. "People forget we've played a lot of hockey and kids get tired. They played four rounds of playoffs. It's nice to have that break and get the kids some rest."
Keegan Lowe, son of Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe and a 2011 third-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, scored the Oil Kings' lone goal. Goaltender Laurent Brossoit made 24 saves.
"It stings," Lowe said. "Now we've got to play an extra game or two. But the goal is still in sight. It's still reachable."
Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal said he believed his team's second straight loss was more of what his team failed to do rather than anything London did.
"There's a difference between a team frustrating you and your own team frustrating you," he said. "If you're unwilling to play the structure in place, it's going to be a tough night … we were unwilling to follow the game plan we had prepared for London."
Edmonton took momentum into the first intermission when Lowe scored off a Henrik Samuelsson pass with 2.6 seconds to play to cut London's advantage to 2-1.
However, it was McKegg who scored an insurance goal for London at 11:24 of the second period. Edmonton's Travis Ewanyk hit the post at one end of the, and on the counterattack McKegg scored off the rebound of a Max Domi shot.
McKegg had been the captain in Erie and a top scorer, leaving the organization third on the all-time goal list with 106 and fourth in points with 229.
He kept scoring with London, with 19 goals and 22 assists in 31 games. However, that scoring mysteriously dried up in the OHL playoffs. He had one goal in a four-game sweep of Windsor in the first round and three goals in six games against Saginaw in the second round, but it had been since April 11 that he had found the back of the net, a span of seven games, plus two more at the Memorial Cup.
Part of the drought could be attributed to an upper-body injury that kept him out of the Knights' conference final series against the Kitchener Rangers, but he showed Tuesday he's healthy and ready to contribute again.
"Of course, you'd like to be filling the net," McKegg, who scored 49 goals in Erie last season, told the London Free Press. "The important thing is you keep getting the chances and sooner or later, you'll get one. But you can't be worried about it. You have to sure you play well defensively, block shots, win draws -- all the little things to help the team."
Ryan Rupert opened the scoring on London's first shot of the game. Watson knocked Edmonton defenseman Griffin Reinhart -- a top prospect for the 2012 NHL Draft -- off the puck. Matt Rupert, Ryan's twin brother, dug the puck out of traffic and and fed the puck to Ryan in front of the net. His shot found room between Brossoit's pads just 1:17 into the game for the 1-0 lead.
Midway through the period, Bo Horvat scored his first of the tournament. Playing in place of an ill Josh Anderson, he made it 2-0 at 11:20 when he scored off the rebound of a Chris Tierney shot.
After McKegg's goal, Houser backstopped a shot-blocking group in front of him. Listed No. 16 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goaltenders for the 2012 NHL Draft, Houser stopped all 13 shots he faced in the final 40 minutes, including nearly two minutes of extra-attacker time after the Oil Kings pulled Brossoit.
Watson, one of the Knights' top shot-blockers, was rewarded for his effort with an empty-net goal with 52 seconds remaining.
The loss locks Edmonton, the Western Hockey League champion, into the tie-breaker game Thursday, against the loser of Wednesday's game between Saint John and Shawinigan.
Laxdal said he hopes his team uses Wednesday to re-discover the form that helped it win the WHL title and earn its trip to the Memorial Cup.
"I think our kids are in awe, looking around," Laxdal said. "We've got another game to stay alive and we have to bring our best game Thursday night. Our goal is to win Thursday night and get to the semifinals. We can't paly with one line. Curtis Lazar, Stephane Legault and Henrik Samuelsson have been outstanding. We need the other nine forwards to step up and join the parade."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor