SASKATOON, Sask. – The London Knights rallied around their goaltender, and Anthony Stolarz didn’t want to let them down.
The Knights won the opening game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup 3-2 over the host Saskatoon Blades on Friday. Stolarz, who didn’t play in the final three games of the Ontario Hockey League finals against Barrie, got the nod in favor of Jake Patterson, who was recently sick with the flu.
His teammates did their best to prevent shots from reaching him in the dying minutes with the Blades pressing for the equalizer.
“You look at Max Domi with a minute and 15 seconds left and diving and blocking that shot and it gets the guys rallying,” Stolarz said. “I don’t think they had a shot the last two minutes in the (third) period. Just for the guys being out there and sacrificing their body, it’s tremendous.
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“You want to show support and just try to stop the puck for them because if they’re laying out for you, you want to lay out for them as well.”
Stolarz turned aside 27 of the 29 shots he faced for the win. The Knights responded after allowing the first goal of the game and tied it on a goal by Brett Welychka. Seth Griffith later put the Knights in front 2-1.
The Blades gained momentum after killing off several penalties in the second period. Josh Nicholls was sprung on a breakaway and held off Knights captain Scott Harrington long enough to get a backhand away on Stolarz, and scored his second of the game on his rebound.
“I’m always looking for breakaways, it’s something I’ve been known for in this league,” he said.
“He went to the tough areas, he drove the net and I think both his goals were right in the crease and typically you don’t’ see him score those goals,” Blades defenseman Duncan Siemens said of Nicholls. “But he did what it took and really bared down on his opportunities so that’s huge.”