Belleville edges Kitchener 4-3 in overtime in Memorial Cup semifinal preview
KITCHENER, Ont. - The game didn't mean much, but the players didn't seem to know that.
The Belleville Bulls edged the Kitchener Rangers 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday in what was a preview of the semifinal at the 2008 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The winner of Friday's rematch (7 p.m. ET) meets the Spokane Chiefs in Sunday's final.
Keaton Turkiewicz ended it at 8:55 of extra time with his second goal of the tournament.
It was the eighth meeting of the post-season between Kitchener and Belleville with the series now split 4-4.
Game 9 will end one team's season and catapult the other to the championship game against Spokane, which earned the bye to the final with a 3-0 record in the preliminary round.
Kitchener needed seven games to beat Belleville in the Ontario Hockey League championship series.
Both clubs knew prior to Wednesday's game they would meet again it the semifinal, so neither team wanted to give the other bragging rights ahead of their semifinal rematch.
"For a game everybody chalked up as nothing all 40 kids at ice level played their guts out," Rangers head coach Peter DeBoer said.
Bulls goaltender Mike Murphy has faced 50 or more shots from Kitchener in their last three meetings.
He has an unorthodox style, but his 54-save heroics Wednesday gave the Bulls the chance to claw their way back into the game after falling behind 3-0 after the first period.
"He continues to hear that he can't and continues to prove he can," Bulls head coach George Burnett said. "He gives us the confidence we can crawl back in."
Shawn Matthias scored his second short-handed goal of the tournament and had an assist for Belleville (2-1). Cory Tanaka collected his fourth goal of the Memorial Cup and defenceman P.K. Subban also scored.
Scott Tregunna, Mikkel Boedker and Yannick Weber replied for Kitchener (1-2). Justin Azevedo had two assists and goalie Josh Unice made 25 saves in the loss.
The Chiefs eliminated the Gatineau Olympiques from the tournament Tuesday, so there was little at stake in Wednesday's final round-robin game other than the winner earning right of last line change as the home team Friday.
Matthias said that was enough to motivate him.
"We wanted that last line change because it's just another advantage," he said. "It's hard to win in this arena.
"It meant a lot more than a lot of the fans might have thought. It was a confidence booster. It's a nine-game series and the series is tied 4-4 so we still have a chance to beat these guys in Game 9."
As you might expect from two clubs that know each other too well meeting in a non-elimination game, it was penalty-filled and often sloppy for two periods before both sides sharpened their games in an attempt to get the victory.
"No one on our team is going to accept losing," Turkiewicz said. "We're an older bunch of guys. For a lot of the guys, this is going to be their last couple games in junior hockey."
The Rangers haven't defended leads well in this tournament although they got away with it in a 6-5 overtime win over Gatineau to open the tournament. They were up 3-0 after the first period in that game.
Kitchener was up 1-0 against Spokane before losing 2-1. The Rangers again had a three-goal lead after 20 minutes Wednesday on the strength of two power-play goals.
But Belleville scored short-handed and power-play goals in the second period and Subban tied it up 20 seconds into the third.
"The margin for error right now is slim," Kitchener captain Matt Pepe said. "We let them back in and that can't happen."
Kitchener had chances to end it in regulation on a power play starting at 17:15. Boedker rang a shot off the post and then and Murphy made two spectacular saves with less than two minutes remaining.
Bulls second-line winger Jan Mursak and Kitchener forward Nick Spaling made knee-on-knee contact almost eight minutes into the extra period with Mursak getting the worst of it.
Mursak, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, grimaced in pain as he was assisted off the ice.
"I think he's OK," Burnett said. "I don't know a lot more than that at this point."
In a moment of levity at the post-game news conference, DeBoer was asked if he'd had enough of Belleville.
"Tired isn't the word for it," DeBoer said. "I"m sick, sick of George."
Burnett replied: "I'm sick of Pete."