He was playing the Ice, but the cool focus belonged to Owen Sound goaltender Jordan Binnington, who shut out Kootenay in his Memorial Cup debut.
Binnington did not know he’d be the starter until a few hours before game time, as the Attack have kept alive a strong trio of goaltenders, along with Michael Zador and Scott Stajcer. Attack head coach Mark Reeds gave his youngest netminder, who played Games 6 and 7 of the OHL Championship Series, the start and it paid off, with Owen Sound winning 5-0 in both teams’ openers.
“Either one of [the goalies] can do the job,” said Binnington, who made 29 saves and was at his busiest in the second period whereupon he was called to make 15 saves as the Ice out-chanced the Attack 8-4. “I’ve had a lot of fun through [this run].”
“I thought [Binnington] had an outstanding game today,” said Reeds. “It’s what we expect from all our goaltenders.”
The second period was key in this game. Going into the period with a 1-0 lead, the Attack earned a goal from Russian import Roman Berdnikov flying down the left wing. Afterwards, Attack forward Joey Hishon took a high-sticking penalty and it was all Kootenay. Binnington made a save off of Cody Eakin on a 2-on-1 opportunity late in the period, and Owen Sound clung on to a 2-goal lead that they refused to relenquish.
Eakin, the Winnipeg native, had another opportunity in the third period early on and came in on an apparent breakaway, but was checked off the puck by Attack defenseman Jay Gilbert. “I got slashed pretty good there,” said Eakin, “on the stick. Call or no call, it is what it is.”
“Their goalie played well,” admitted Eakin. “I don’t think it was a 5-0 game.”
He may have been right. The score flattered the Attack, who dominated the early part of the third but couldn’t put another one past Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen, who made 28 saves in his own right. But, with 7:51 to go, Hishon got into a scrum with Owen Sound’s Drew Czerwonka after a whistle and got the extra two. A chance for the Ice to get back into the game went awry. OHL Playoff MVP Robby Mignardi forced a turnover in the neutral zone and somehow created a breakaway leading to the 3-0 goal. The shorthanded goal was Mignardi’s second of the night.
“Eakin I think was carrying the puck and I just got my stick on it,” said Mignardi. “Shaw got me the puck, I skated in and fanned on it, actually, and it went five-hole and I got thrown into the goalie.”
“It’s a backbreaker for the other team.”
The Ice powerplay was 0/5, and did not get a chance for redemption, as just seconds after Hishon returned to the ice, he was met with an elbow from Kootenay captain Brayden McNabb. Hishon, the Colorado Avalanche first-round pick, wobbled on his skates before falling over. McNabb was given 5-and-a-game while Hishon left. Neither player was made available to media after the game. The Attack got two quick powerplay goals from Andrew Fritsch and Garrett Wilson in the waning minutes to tack the extra two markers onto the scoreboard.
“I don’t think so,” said Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch when asked if he thought McNabb would be suspended. “Joey Hishon’s an excellent hockey player and he got his head up in the last minute trying to dodge that.”
“Pretty tough for Brayden McNabb to get out of the way and finish that check. The referees weren’t going to call it a major initially.”
Reeds disagreed with Knoblauch’s assessment. “His elbow came out and made contact with his head. In the Ontario Hockey League, that’s a head shot.”
“I don’t think it was a dirty hit. Hishon was skating off the ice then looked at the ref and went back down,” said Eakin. “Hopefully we get [McNabb] back.”
1: Jordan Binnington
2: Robby Mignardi
3: Andrew Shaw
UPDATE: Per Sportsnet’s Darren Millard, Brayden McNabb was given a game suspension for his third period hit on Joey Hishon.