EP Rinkside's 3 Stars from Day 2 of the 2023 Memorial Cup

Day 2 of the 103rd Memorial Cup featured the Peterborough Petes taking on the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Peterborough is the tournament's unlikely participant after having to knock off the first, second, and fifth overall seeds on the way to their OHL title.

Meanwhile, Seattle comes into the event as the favourite to win it all. This is a team that steamrolled its way to the WHL crown on the back of 10 drafted players including five first-rounders, a projected first-round pick in 2023, and a World Junior gold-medal winning netminder.

This was also just the sixth time we've had two netminders facing off against each other after winning their respective CHL Playoff MVP awards. 

It was those plucky Petes who opened the scoring 84 seconds into the game as a blocked shot at the Peterborough blue line quickly led to a 2-on-0 for Jon-Randall Avon (PHI) and Connor Lockhart (VAN). The speedy Avon held it and deked out Thomas Milic (2023 NHL Draft eligible) to just barely squeak it over the line.

Peterborough nearly scored again a few minutes later as Avon sent a silky little against-the-grain pass to Lockhart for a bang-bang play that Milic never saw but got enough of to keep out.

After that, the Thunderbirds took a stranglehold on the possession game and were constantly buzzing around the Petes’ end. However, not a lot of Grade-A chances were surrendered. Peterborough plays a tight and patient game through the neutral zone and into the defensive end. They kept Seattle’s weapons to the outside and Michael Simpson was able to shut the door on the attempts.

After the Thunderbirds tied things up with the captain, Lucas Ciona (CGY), banging home a trickler into the empty cage, it suddenly became the Owen Beck (MTL) show. After a very quiet 25 or so minutes, the Montréal Canadiens prospect went searching for a monster open-ice hit in the neutral zone, only to have Ciona slide out and catch the knee hanging. Ciona didn’t like it and had some choice words, but it was just a two-minute penalty which Peterborough killed off. 

After his time was served, Beck came all the way from behind his own net, serpentined the ice, made a move and wired one far side past Milic to re-take the lead. It was the highlight of the night.

Kyle Crnkovic evened things up again a few moments later on a pretty bar-down release off the rush and from out high. The period concluded with Seattle outshooting Peterborough 26-18, but the score tied at two goals a piece. It wasn’t the last we’d hear from Crnkovic.

Halfway through the final frame, Crnkovic went bar down once again on a gorgeous goal to grab the lead for the Thunderbirds and they never relinquished it again. The Petes made it 4-3 at one point, but the 21-year-old Crnkovic finished up the trick into the empty net to make it a 6-3 final.

1. Kyle Crnkovic, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds

Last night it was James Malatesta potting the hat trick, tonight it was Crnkovic. The 5-foot-7 left-winger had the two absolutely splendid finishes and then the empty-netter to wrap things up. The 21-year-old had a couple of other quality chances generated through his motor. Off of the rush, he was dynamic, opportunistic, and deadly.

His first two tallies were timely as well. Tying the game up and stemming the tide of momentum swinging toward Peterborough. Then grabbing the lead in the third.

The Thunderbirds are a relentless squad in the latter part of the game. Going back through the WHL playoffs, they’ve now outscored their opponents 45-13 in the third period and overtime. If you want a chance to defeat this squad, you better have a healthy lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

Maybe the most concerning part of this result was that the Seattle top-line Brad Lambert (WIN), Reid Schaefer (NSH), and Dylan Guenther (AZ) were fairly quiet. They had some shots, but few overly dangerous chances. That certainly won’t hold.

Seattle came in as the tournament favourites and the exit game one with the heels dug into that position.

2. Owen Beck, C, Peterborough Petes (Montréal Canadiens)

I won’t lie to you, I was disappointed with Beck’s start in this one. After originally being suspended two games for a slew foot in the OHL final, the NHL reduced that to one game thus making the 33rd overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft eligible for this first Memorial Cup game.

But Beck was invisible through the first 25 minutes. And then he wasn’t.

The kneeing penalty seemed to wake him up, and that end-to-end goal was a tantalizing highlight. It showcased his wonderful skating ability and a nice touch to finish it off far side. Beck had two other clean chances later on, all generated through speed in the middle of the ice. He was the most impactful Pete in the loss.

Peterborough will need to continue to lean on the 19-year-old for everything at this event. He is the epitome of their team style; staunch defensive presence, timely ability to finish, and some snarl. 

3. Lucas Ciona, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (Calgary Flames)

Ciona was heavily involved with the Thunderbirds in all three zones. The captain opened the scoring for his team after making a really heady play to intercept the clearing pass, moved it over to Lambert (WIN) and went hard to the net to clean up the garbage. Later on in the game, he made the dish to Crnkovic to open up a 3-2 lead.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound forward was hard to handle in the corners, cycling the puck well and maintaining possession. He was getting in on the forecheck and laying the body, lifting sticks, and fighting for position. Defensively, he made a couple of timely blocks as well. It was a workman-like outing for the 20-year-old Calgary Flames prospect.

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This article is about:
CHL Peterborough Petes Seattle Thunderbirds OHL WHL Jon-Randall Avon Owen Beck Lucas Ciona Kyle Crnkovic Thomas Milic
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