Monday, May 20, 2013
SASKATOON - After seeing their three-goal lead evaporate, the Portland Winterhawks' quick-strike offence ensured the race for the MasterCard Memorial Cup title is still wide open.
Derrick Pouliot and Chase De Leo scored 23 seconds apart in the third period Monday as Portland picked up its first win at the tournament with a 6-3 victory over the London Knights.
The result means that all four teams at the Canadian Hockey League showcase now sit with 1-1 records and guarantees a tiebreaker game on Thursday.
The Winterhawks, who were coming off a 7-4 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Saturday in a game that saw Portland blow a 3-1 lead, responded well after surrendering a similar edge against the Knights.
"It was a big win for our team. We needed to respond with a good effort,'' said Winterhawks coach Travis Green, whose team led 3-0 midway through the second period before London stormed back. "That's a real good hockey team we played over there. It was a hard-fought win and I'm happy with how our team played.''
Ty Rattie had two goals and an assist for the Western Hockey League champions, Saskatoon native Taylor Leier had a goal and two assists, and Oliver Bjorkstrand chipped in with a goal and an assist.
"I thought we had a really good start to the game and then we kind of let off the gas a bit, which we've done a couple times this post-season,'' Portland defenceman Seth Jones said. "We've got to stop that. They got back in it but we were able to get a couple more goals and hold the lead.''
Mac Carruth made 25 saves for the Winterhawks after allowing all seven goals in the loss to Halifax.
"Maybe he'd like to have that first game back. We have total confidence in him,'' Pouliot said. "It was good to see him play well tonight and we're going to need that going forward.''
After London tied the game 3-3 early in the third period, Pouliot, a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012, ripped a shot off the shoulder of Knights goalie Anthony Stolarz and in on a Portland power play at 6:20. De Leo ended the London netminder's night at 6:43 by sliding a shot home from the slot.
"We have to contribute every once in a while and do the little things and just do whatever it takes to help the boys win,'' said De Leo, who plays on Portland's checking line. "It felt good to finally get one on the board.''
Bo Horvat and Alex Broadhurst replied with a goal and an assist each for London, while Scott Harrington also scored. Stolarz allowed five goals on 26 shots before being replaced by Jake Patterson.
London will have to regroup quickly with the Knights' round-robin finale against Halifax set for Tuesday night.
"We had a couple days off and didn't have our legs under us again in the first period,'' Horvat said. "Other than that we really regrouped well.''
Jones, the No. 1 ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting ahead of next month's draft, finished with a plus-4 rating for a Portland team that breathed a sigh of relief after a disappointing opener.
"We definitely calmed down a bit after this game,'' he said. "It's definitely good to get the first win under the belt.''
Down 3-2 after two periods, the Knights tied it early in the third when London forward Brett Welychka's attempted deflection in front of Carruth fell to Broadhurst at the side of the Portland goal for an easy tap in.
The Winterhawks netminder kept the score tied with a stop of Josh Anderson on a partial breakaway a couple minutes later before Pouliot and De Leo struck in quick succession and Rattie scored into an empty net.
"They're a good team over there and they know how to protect a lead. We did a great job battling back and just came up a little bit short at the end,'' Knights forward Max Domi said. "We're not looking to make excuses here. Realistically it's one loss. It's a tournament for a reason and we're ready to battle back against Halifax.''
With Portland leading 1-0 after a sleepy first period, the floodgates opened in the second. Bjorkstrand doubled the Winterhawks' lead at 2:17 after wheeling out from behind the London net and snapping a shot shortside on Stolarz.
Rattie then stretched the advantage to three with a goal with the teams playing 4-on-4 that was a carbon copy of his effort against Halifax on Saturday night. The St. Louis Blues draft pick moved into the London zone and toe dragged the puck around a Knights defender before slipping a backhand past Stolarz at 10:23 while falling to the ice.
Needing a spark, the Ontario Hockey League champions responded just 15 seconds later as Harrington moved into the high slot and wired a shot into the top corner past Carruth.
Horvat scored the game's second highlight-reel goal at 12:30 on the power play. The 15th-ranked North American skater ahead of the draft took a slick between-the-legs pass from Domi right in front of Carruth before burying a shot past the Portland goalie.
"I turned my head slightly and saw Domi with his stick between his legs,'' Jones said. "The next thing I know Horvat puts it top shelf in the back of the net. I wasn't able to see the replay ... but I'm betting it will be highlight of the night.''
The crowd of 7,575 at the Credit Union Centre seemed half asleep in the early going and the two teams didn't do much to help wake them out of their slumber.
Coming off the high of the host Saskatoon Blades' exciting 5-2 victory over Halifax on Sunday night, the half-empty arena finally came to life at 16:53 of the first period when Leier deflected a shot off the sideboards from Taylor Wotherspoon past Stolarz for the only action of note in a drab opening 20 minutes.
The Winterhawks have a day off before meeting the host Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday night in the round-robin finale.
"Our team doesn't really get too high or too low, even when we're winning,'' Green said. "We're a pretty relaxed group that works extremely hard.''
Notes: All four teams hold 1-1 records for the second straight year and for just the second time in history since the four-team format was adopted in 1983 ... Patterson finished with five saves for London. Knights coach Dale Hunter would not say who will start in goal against Halifax.
© 2013 The Canadian Press
The son of former tough guy Tie Domi is expected to be taken in the first round of next month's NHL draft, but with the three top North American-based prospects all playing at the Credit Union Centre, the 2013 edition of Canadian Hockey League's showcase event is far from normal.
That suits Domi and a host of other potential picks just fine.
NHL scouts have descended on the 10-day tournament as top prospects Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, and Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, both of the Halifax Mooseheads, play their final games ahead of the draft.
Having the trio in one place means that other players expected to have their names called early on June 30 in Newark, N.J., can focus on the tournament.
"I know those guys pretty well and they're great guys and awesome hockey players,'' said Domi, who is ranked at No. 19 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. "We're just worried about how the London Knights play and not really anything else to be honest. We focus on ourselves and the team and let the rest take care of itself.''
Knights teammate Bo Horvat, who is ranked 15th, says that although the draft is never completely out of his mind, the goal in Saskatoon is to win the CHL title.
"There's always competition but I've played on teams with them before and we're all good friends,'' he said. "I don't feel the pressure. You've just got to play your game and not worry about the draft too much and just focus on the team aspect.
"There's definitely a lot of prospects here and a lot good hockey players looking to raise their stock.''
A player who has made one of the biggest jumps from the mid-season rankings to now is London defenceman Nikita Zadorov. The six-foot-five Russian scored the winner in the Knights' 3-2 tournament-opening victory over the Saskatoon Blades and has moved up eight spots to No. 22 on the North American draft list.
Knights coach Dale Hunter says despite being overshadowed by Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin at the Memorial Cup, his players are worthy of the billing they've received from scouts.
"Max and Bo, you can see what they did for us. They're young men, just like the Halifax boys and (Jones) from Portland. They both come to play,'' Hunter said. "They're all good players and that's why they're ranked so high in the draft and deservedly so.''
Halifax goalie Zachary Fucale, who is listed as the No. 1 netminder in North America and played with both MacKinnon and Drouin for the last two seasons, has witnessed the hype surrounding his teammates. He says the looming draft and playing with and against top talent doesn't change his mindset.
"I just concentrate on helping the team,'' he said. "We were all in this, us three together and I don't think one of us was ahead of the other. We were just playing for the team.''
Portland forward Nicolas Petan says he enjoys being on the ice against the best junior hockey has to offer.
"It obviously elevates your game,'' said Petan, who is ranked No. 33. "It definitely motivates me to play against the guys who are ranked really high.''
Domi has an extra edge in terms of preparing for the draft in the form of his famous father, who actually played in a Memorial Cup in Saskatoon as a member of the 1989 Peterborough Petes.
"He's my dad so I talk to him quite a bit about hockey,'' the younger Domi said. "He's been through all of this. We joke around about that a little bit. He played 17 years in the NHL so I bounce questions off him all the time and he helps me out a lot.
"Having my dad in my back pocket is huge.''
© 2013 The Canadian Press
Sunday, May 19, 2013
They emphatically put those doubts rest with a gritty win over the Canadian Hockey League's top team.
Matej Stransky scored twice and Andrey Makarov made 29 saves as Saskatoon picked up its first victory in more than two months by beating the star-studded Halifax Mooseheads 5-2 on Sunday night.
"There's a lot of doubt in this city, or there was, going into tonight and they had every reason to,'' Blades centre Lukas Sutter said. "We had to do something to spark some belief and excitement.''
The Blades did just that against a team whose roster includes top NHL prospects Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.
Collin Valcourt, Darren Dietz and Josh Nicholls, into an empty net, had the other goals for Saskatoon (1-1), which dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision to the London Knights in Friday's tournament opener, but held on against the CHL's No. 1 ranked team.
"We've never had doubt in that room and I think we needed a game like this to show the fans and the whole city that they can get behind us and have something to feel confident about,'' said Nicholls, who also had an assist. "I think (the Credit Union Centre) was the loudest its been in my five years here.''
Stephen MacAulay and MacKinnon replied in the third period for Halifax (1-1), which lost just six games during the regular season and once in the playoffs while cruising to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title. Zachary Fucale made 26 stops in defeat.
With the Mooseheads down 1-0 and pressing for the tie late in the second period, Stransky collected a loose puck after coming out of the penalty box. The Dallas Stars prospect moved in alone on Fucale and roofed a shot under the crossbar with 1:15 left to help send Saskatoon, which hadn't played in 51 days prior to the game against London, to its first win since a 3-2 shootout decision over the Edmonton Oil Kings on March 12.
"It's been a while since we've had that win. It's been over 60 days since we've won a hockey game,'' said Blades defenceman Duncan Siemens, whose team will meet the Portland Winterhawks in Wednesday's round-robin finale of the tournament to decide the CHL champion. "It's been a long time and it feels great to get that one, but we're not satisfied.''
Halifax, which was playing its second game in as many night's after Saturday's 7-4 victory over Portland, was thwarted time and again by Makarov.
A Russian netminder who is property of the Buffalo Sabres, Makarov stopped MacKinnon early in the second off the rush with Saskatoon up 1-0 and made a big save on Halifax's Stefan Fournier eight minutes into the period.
While Makarov was brilliant, he got a lot of help from his teammates, who blocked shots with reckless abandon, especially on the power play before Stransky's second goal.
"I thought they outworked us for the majority of the game,'' said MacKinnon, whose team lost for just the eighth time in regulation all season. "I thought we had a good last 10-12 minutes to the night but that's not enough and we've got to regroup.
"We don't like the feeling (of losing) but we'll handle it like men and pros and move on.''
Valcourt made it 3-0 just 1:43 into the third, banging a puck home off a scramble in front of Fucale before Dietz scored another one from in tight on the power play just 57 seconds later.
"They played with more energy than us and desperation,'' Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme said. "They felt their back maybe a little bit more to the wall and they reacted. You've got to give them credit. They battled hard.
"You look at the goals that were scored. Three of them are battles in front of the net for loose pucks or rebounds.''
MacAulay got Halifax on the board by ripping a shot past Makarov at 6:48 of the third before MacKinnon added his fourth of the tournament at 8:19. The Mooseheads pressed for more, but couldn't find another way past Makarov before Nicholls iced it with two seconds to go.
The Blades led 1-0 after an exciting first period that featured five combined power plays, good chances at both ends and a couple of hard hits.
Saskatoon opened the scoring at 12:11 when Stransky jammed a loose puck past Fucale after the Mooseheads goalie failed to control a rebound in his crease.
Nicholls, who is in the final days of his junior career, summed up the emotion in the Blades locker-room after a victory that was a long time coming.
"Today is one of the best feelings I think all of us have had in playing the game of hockey,'' Nicholls said. "I think we were just all together as a group. Each guy was on the same page and we were all pushing each other on that bench to gain some energy. At no point did we fatigue at all. We kept pushing each other and charging each other's batteries.''
Notes: MacKinnon is ranked as the No. 2 North American skater ahead of next month's NHL draft, while Drouin is No. 3. ... Attendance was 8,934. ... Portland (0-1) meets London (1-0) in Monday's game. Next up for Halifax is a date with the Knights on Tuesday. If necessary, a tiebreaker would be played Thursday. The semifinal between the second- and third-place teams goes Friday, with the first-place club getting a bye directly into Sunday's final. ... The Memorial Cup was first awarded in 1919 in honour of the soldiers killed in the First World War. It now recognizes Canadian soldiers killed in any conflict after being rededicated in 2010.
The national championship is the first for Brooks, which held the No. 1 spot in the CJHL Top 20 rankings for the final 22 weeks of the regular season. The Bandits are the eighth team from the Alberta Junior Hockey League to be crowned national champions, and the fifth to do it since the start of the five-team format in 1990. The Camrose Kodiaks were the last AJHL team to win the national title, in 2001.
Cam Maclise, named RBC CJHL Player of the Year at Friday night's awards banquet, scored once and added an assist for the Bandits, who avenged their lone loss of the week, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Western Capitals on Tuesday night.
The 2014 RBC Cup will be held in May 2014 in Vernon, B.C., with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League serving as the host team.
(Courtesy Hockey Canada)
Logan Couture got San Jose back into their NHL Western Conference semifinal with a power-play goal 1:29 into overtime, as the Sharks beat Los Angeles 2-1. The Sharks trail the series 2-1, and host Game Four on Tuesday. Detroit evened its series with Chicago at a game apiece, grabbing home ice advantage by downing the Blackhawks 4-1.
Jason Spezza makes his much anticipated return to the Ottawa Senators lineup tonight when they host Pittsburgh in Game Three of the NHL's Eastern Conference semifinal. Spezza hasn't played since January 27th when he suffered a back injury. Ottawa trails the Penguins' two-games-to-none. Boston hosts the New York Rangers this afternoon, with the Bruins leading the series 1-0.
Centre Nathan MacKinnon has a tough act to follow when his Halifax Mooseheads play for the second time in as many days at the Memorial Cup. MacKinnon scored three times during the Mooseheads' five-goal second period, in a 7-4 win over Portland. MacKinnon is ranked the Number-Two North American skater for next month's NHL draft. Next up for Halifax are the host Saskatoon Blades, who lost their round robin opener, 3-2 to London.
Switzerland is one win away from its first world hockey championship. Switzerland stunned the United State 3-0, setting up a final today against co-host Sweden (at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time), and guaranteeing the team a first world championship medal in 60 years. Sweden beat fellow co-host Finland 3-0.
The Toronto Blue Jays are looking to escape from New York with their first win this season at Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays will send R.A. Dickey to the mound this afternoon, hoping to avoid their second sweep in the Bronx in three weeks. The Yankees will counter with their ace, C-C Sabathia. In the Blue Jays' latest setback in the Bronx, Robinson Cano banged out a pair of two-run homers in the Yankees 7-2 decision.
The NBA conference finals are set. The Indiana Pacers grabbed the final spot in the Eastern Conference, and will face the Miami Heat after finishing off the New York Knicks in six games, 106-99. The Western Conference final tips off this afternoon in San Antonio, with the Spurs taking on the Memphis Grizzlies. The Indy-Miami series starts Wednesday.
(The Canadian Press)