SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The Memorial Cup has a habit of producing unlikely heroes and, for a while, it appeared Edmonton Oil Kings rookie forward Cole Miller would wear that crown.
Yet, the Shawinigan Cataractes have a story of their own to write and penned another chapter in a magical season with a 4-3 win against the Oil Kings at Harbour Station arena Tuesday, in the second game of the 2022 Memorial Cup.
Pierrick Dube and Olivier Nadeau scored in the third period for the Cataractes for the come-from-behind victory.
Jordan Tourigny and Xavier Bourgault added the others for the Cataractes, who are the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions. Mavrik Bourque had two assists and Charles-Antoine Lavallee made 25 saves for Shawinigan.
“I think this team has the belief they can come back,” said Cataractes assistant coach Pascal Dupuis. “They’ve done it in the past, they’ve come back from deficits during the season. This team believes in themselves that they can come back in any game.”
Luke Prokop, Tyler Horstmann and Miller scored for the Oil Kings, who are at the tournament as Western Hockey League champions. Goaltender Sebastian Cossa made 31 saves in the loss.
Miller scored the go-ahead goal with under three minutes left in the second period to put the Oil Kings up 3-2. He likely would not even have been on the ice had teammate Dylan Guenther not been ruled out of the tournament due to an injury, and Carson Golder not been thrown out of the game seven minutes into the first period.
Miller started the game centring the Oil Kings’ little-used fourth line and moved up after Golder was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for cross-checking Cataractes forward Maximilien Ledoux into the end boards head first.
The ejection forced Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer to shuffle his lines and he slotted Miller up alongside Jalen Luypen and Tyler Horstmann on the third line.
“We altered the lines, we had to move things around and make some changes to try and find some chemistry and get a balance in our lines,” Lauer said. “I thought Cole was good, he scored a big goal for us and he contributed what we needed.”
Tourigny opened the scoring on the power play resulting from Golder’s ejection. He stepped up from the blue line and snapped a shot past Cossa from the high slot.
Cossa was the reason the Cataractes did not score more than one goal in the period. He made a number of big saves while the Oil Kings were trying to get up to pace with the speedy Cataractes.
The Oil Kings tied the game 1-1 late in the period as Prokop picked up a puck just inside the blue line, worked his way into a shooting lane and snapped the puck in past Lavallee. After the goal, the Oil Kings were able to wrestle back control of the period and ended up outshooting the Cataractes 14-11 in the frame.
Horstmann gave the Oil Kings the lead four minutes into the second period. He kept the puck on a 2-on-1 rush and fired a shot over Lavallee.
Bourgault tied it three minutes later, taking a pass in tight from Charles Beaudoin and picking the top corner on Cossa.
Bourgault, an Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick, was all over the ice in the contest and a handful for the Oil Kings to try and conta. He finished with a goal and an assist.
“He’s just an amazing player, the way he shoots the puck, and his speed, he’s really fast and shifty,” said Bourque. “I think he’s going to be a pretty good player at the next level.”
Miller restored the lead for the Oil Kings with his first goal of the post season; he didn’t have a point in the WHL playoffs. The 17-year-old took a cross-ice pass from Jalen Luypen on a rush and snapped a shot short-side on Lavallee.
Dube tied it five and-a-half minutes into the third period, floating a point shot in past Cossa, who did not see it. The shot might have hit the glove of Oil Kings defenceman Simon Kubicek in front and slightly changed direction, catching the corner of the net.
Nadeau then scored the winner just over a minute later after Cossa misplayed a puck that bounced off the end boards.
Cossa lost his footing on the play and was caught on the wrong side of the net after getting his stick down to play the puck off the end boards. Bourque picked up the puck and found Nadeau out in front, who scored into the open net.
“They’re a great team, they’re here for a reason,” Dupuis said. “But the adjustments we made in the third period worked out. We put pucks behind their defencemen, we made them turn and I think our top guys were the better players again.”
Prokop had an excellent opportunity to tie the game with four minutes left, but was unable to convert a centring pass after jumping into the slot unattended.
The Oil Kings face the host Saint John Sea Dogs in the third game of the four-team tournament Wednesday. Saint John opened the Memorial Cup with a 5-3 win against the Ontario Hockey League champion Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday.
“We’re usually really good in the third, and I think we said all the right things in the second intermission,” Lauer said. “We talked about managing the game, doing the right thing, keeping the shifts short. But we had a lapse for three minutes, they got the momentum and we started chasing it.”
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