Stop me if this sounds familiar at all: Anthony Mantha scored, the Val d’Or Foreurs got badly outshot, but they managed to win the game anyway.
Well, that happened again in the opening game of the Memorial Cup, as Antoine Bibeau made 51 saves to carry Val d’Or to a 1-0 win over the host London Knights, who are playing in their third straight Memorial Cup.
London had plenty of opportunities in the first period, putting 20 shots on net compared to just nine for the Foreurs.
Bibeau, a sixth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2013 NHL Draft, was more than up to the task, showing a cool composure as he stopped everything the Knights threw at him.
It was just another day at the office for Bibeau, who faced a combined 187 shots in the final four games of the President’s Cup final against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, posting a .914 save percentage in that time.
There was one nervous moment early in the period for Bibeau, as a clearing attempt from London defenceman Brady Austin bobbled toward him without realizing it, perhaps evoking bad memories of former Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala.
Bibeau settled in after that, though, with his best save and the Foreurs gave him all the offence he needed shortly thereafter.
Late in the first, Mantha, considered one of the best snipers in the Canadian Hockey League, made a strong defensive play in his own end to force a turnover and produce a counter-attack with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.
Then, the 2013 Detroit Red Wings first-round pick did what he does best, breaking in off a pass from Foreurs captain Samuel Henley, beating Austin around the corner, and cutting across the crease to beat Knights goaltender Anthony Stolarz for his 82nd goal in 82 games this season, including regular season and playoff games.
After a scoreless second period, London came out flying in the third, getting more chances and drawing penalties.
The Knights’ best chance came as Bo Horvat was given a penalty shot six minutes into the third period. However, Bibeau was up to the task, outwaiting the first-round Vancouver Canucks draft pick and stopping him with the blocker to preserve the Foreurs’ lead and stop his seventh penalty shot in eight opportunities this season.
Bibeau was under siege late in the third, as London got some traffic in front of him. One of his best saves came with less than three minutes to go, as 2015 draft prospect Mitchell Marner had a good chance from the side of the goal mouth, but Bibeau once again made the save.
The pressure intensified once the Knights pulled Stolarz in favour of an extra attacker, but they couldn’t beat Bibeau despite a sequence where Foreurs centre Louick Marcotte’s stick was broken. However, Marcotte made a great defensive play, lunging in front of a Max Domi centering pass to put it into the corner and freezing the puck, taking more time off the clock and giving the Foreurs the win.
On Saturday, the OHL-champion Guelph Storm will face the WHL-champion Edmonton Oil Kings at 4 p.m. EST in the Memorial Cup opener for both teams.