Windsor Spitfires winger Dale Mitchell made sure the hometown Rimouski Oceanic would be the first team eliminated from the Memorial Cup.
Mitchell scored a natural hat trick in the third period Thursday night, lifting the Spitfires to a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the stunned Oceanic during the tiebreaker contest in Rimouski, Que.
Windsor will take on the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the semifinal match Friday night (7 p.m. ET). The winner of that matchup meets the Kelowna Rockets in the Memorial Cup final Sunday afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET).
Eric Wellwood, Scott Timmins and Greg Nemisz also scored for the Spitfires, with goaltender Andrew Engelage making 17 saves.
Rimouski's Sébastien Piché, Patrice Cormier, Jordan Caron and Emmanuel Boudreau netted markers, while netminder Maxim Gougeon stopped 31 shots.
Mitchell single-handedly won the game for Windsor with a natural hat trick in the first 7:44 of the final period.
"Our coaches got us going, but we were really confident in the room," said Mitchell. "We weren't getting on each other. The feeling was that we were coming back."
Trailing 4-2, Mitchell brought Windsor within one by converting home a rebound just 4:11 into the third.
The Spitfires winger then blasted a wrist shot over Gougeon with Windsor on the power play 1:40 later.
Mitchell ended the comeback with his third goal in the final 20 minutes, sending Windsor on to the semifinal after pouncing on a rebound in front of Gougeon following Windsor's two-man advantage.
"We were getting chances, and we knew we were on these guys," added Mitchell, a third-round pick in 2007 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "It was a matter of time before we buried a couple.
"They happened to be on my stick."
Didn't want to end like this
Nemisz ended the four-goal third with a final power-play goal with only one second remaining.
"In the third period, we just didn't want our great season to end like this," said Spitfires defenceman Ryan Ellis, a projected first-round pick in the NHL draft in June. "We were trying hard, and it wasn't clicking, and finally we got a few power plays and it clicked. Dale Mitchell was the saviour for us."
The teams exploded for five goals in 9:02 span during the first period.
Wellwood got Windsor on the board with his first goal of the tournament at 7:13. Wellwood took a pass from Adam Henrique and beat Gougeon with a nice deke to the glove side.
Rimouski responded 49 seconds later as Piché's one-time point blast rang off the far post.
Before the Quebec crowd revel in the goal, Windsor struck back to take a 2-1 lead 28 seconds later. After a Rimouski turnover in the neutral zone, Timmins let a seemingly harmless wrist shot that got behind a surprised Gougeon.
The scoring barrage continued with Rimouski tying the contest 2-2 on the power play at 12:47 of the first. Taking advantage of a turnover by Nemisz, Cormier fed a cross-ice pass to Caron, who buried a shot by Engelage.
The Oceanic took the lead with 3:45 remaining in the first when Boudreau's point shot went through a maze of players before the puck found the back of the net.
The teams combined for a seven-goal second period during round-robin play on Sunday, a game Rimouski won 5-4.
Used to aggressive play now
Another power-play advantage gave the Oceanic a 4-2 edge with only 2:35 left in the second period. Cormier took a great lead pass from Piché before beating Engelage with a terrific move to the forehand.
"We weren't used to the Quebec style of game," Mitchell said of the Spitfires' early struggles. "Drummondville and Rimouski were really aggressive, and we weren't used to that.
"Now we are. It'll come out next game. Drummondville has an awesome team. We're pretty confident, but we can't be too high. We have to come out hard and get as many shots as we can in the first period."
Leading by two goals heading into the third, Rimouski appeared headed for a showdown with QMJHL rival Voltigeurs, until Mitchell's dominating effort shocked the Oceanic.
"We had some breakdowns, and they killed us," said Piché. "We should have been hungrier going into the third period, and we started soft and never found our rhythm."