In a hectic third period that could have gone either way, the Edmonton Oil Kings found the will to pick up their game and come out on top.
Henrik Samuelsson broke a tie 13:42 into the final period as the Oil Kings downed the host Shawinigan Cataractes 4-3 in a wild opening game of the Mastercard Memorial Cup on Friday night.
“It’s just the urgency level,” said Edmonton captain Mark Pysyk. “If we’re down a goal or it’s a close game, we pick it up.
“It was a pretty exciting game to be part of and I imagine it was good to watch as well. It’s tough when you get scored on, but it was a pretty big boost when we scored. So it went both ways.”
The teams went into the third period tied 1-1 and then piled up five goals over the final 20 minutes.
Griffin Reinhart and Martin Gernat got early third-period goals for Edmonton, only to see Anton Zlobin and Michael Chaput, with his second of the night, tie it up again for Shawinigan.
Shawinigan’s failure to clear the zone let Samuelsson, a centre who is the son of former NHL defenceman Ulf Samuelsson, finish a three-way passing play with Stephane Legault and Reinhart to give the Oil Kings back the lead.
“As you know, Griff is a pretty good player and so is Legault,” Samuelsson said. “They saw that right away and I was just the lucky one who got to shoot it in.”
Kristians Pelss also scored for the Western Hockey League champions.
The round-robin portion of the four-team tournament continues Saturday night when the defending champion Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League face the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
The Cataractes, who had not played since they were eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs by Chicoutimi on April 17, had most of the energy and scoring chances through the first two periods, but looked a little rusty around the net. They ended up with a 33-25 shot advantage, including 14-11 in the third.
“A chance here and there and it could have been our game easily,” said defenceman Morgan Ellis. “We played good for the most part.”
The noise level amped up in the third as the home side roared back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game, only to see the Oil Kings strike right back.
The not-quite sellout crowd of 4,100 at the Bionest Centre were still booing an uncalled high-sticking incident when Reinhart got the puck in his own zone, broke down the left wing and picked the top corner on Alex Dubeau’s glove side for a 2-1 lead 1:01 into the third.
Gernat then sneaked a wrist shot, which may have been deflected, past Dubeau with the teams each short a man at 5:21.
But Zlobin burst down the right wing and jammed the puck between Laurent Brossoit’s pads and saw it trickle over the line. The goal was allowed only after video review.
Chaput picked the pocket of defenceman Keegan Lowe in front of the Edmonton net and chipped the puck in at 13:19.
Lowe, son of former Oilers president and former defenceman Kevin Lowe, was just glad his gaffe didn’t cost Edmonton the game.
“I thought I had a pretty good game overall,” Lowe said. “I was a little sloppy coming around the net.
“I don’t know if it hopped and I skated over it, but we all know what happened from there. But our team is good at bouncing back and I was thankful for that. We struck back right away for me.”
Only 23 seconds later, Samuelsson got the game-winner.
There was debate in Shawinigan over the starting goalie as coach Eric Veilleux opted for Dubeau over Gabriel Girard, who excelled in the regular season. But Veilleux would not blame the goalie for this loss.
“We gave up a lot of chances we don’t usually give up,” he said. “Those were not easy goals. One was a two-on-zero. He had a good game overall.”
The Oil Kings got the first goal of the tournament as a turnover at the Shawinigan blue-line left two men in alone. Michael St. Croix slipped the puck to Pelss for a shot into an open side 2:41 into the game.
Shawinigan showed hustle in grabbing the edge in play and earned consecutive power plays. Chaput scored on the second power play at 8:36, converting the rebound of a Brandon Gormley point shot.
The Oil Kings were coming off a Game 7 win over Portland in the WHL final on Sunday.
Notes: Shawinigan’s Kirill Kabanov left the ice with blood gushing onto the ice after taking a puck to the face in the first period, but returned to start the second frame. The entire right side of his face was swollen after the game . . It was the 27th anniversary of the Cataractes 6-1 loss to Prince Albert in the 1985 Memorial Cup final.