Winterhawks down Blades to clinch Memorial Cup semifinal berth
Mooseheads clinch berth in Sunday's final
The Portland Winterhawks scored three times in the third period Wednesday to defeat the Saskatoon Blades 4-2 in the final round-robin game at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
With the score tied 1-1, Chase De Leo gave Portland the lead for good at 4:08 of the third when he jammed a loose puck past Blades goalie Andrey Makarov as the Winterhawks (2-1) clinched a spot in Friday's semifinal.
The host Blades (1-2) will now take on the London Knights (1-2) in Thursday's tiebreaker game. The winner of that one will meet Portland in Friday's semi. With the Winterhawks' victory, the Halifax Mooseheads (2-1) clinched a berth directly into Sunday's final at the tournament to decide the Canadian Hockey League champion.
Derrick Pouliot, Brenden Leipsic and Ty Rattie had the other goals for Portland, which got 29 saves from Mac Carruth. Nicolas Petan added two assists for the Western Hockey League champions.
Josh Nicholls, with a goal and an assist, and Shane McColgan replied for Saskatoon, while Makarov stopped 30 shots in taking the loss.
After De Leo scored to give Portland the lead in the third, Leipsic added an insurance goal for Portland at 6:27, ripping a shot from the slot into the top corner past Makarov.
Rattie made it 4-1 with his fourth of the tournament at 10:16, beating Makarov to the glove side off the rush.
Nicholls scored at 16:27 to cut the deficit to two, but the Blades would get no closer.
Following a scoreless first period, the teams traded goals in the second. Pouliot opened the scoring at 6:44 after jumping on a Blades turnover and firing a shot from the sideboards that fooled Makarov through the five-hole.
Saskatoon got a 5-on-3 power play later in the period and didn't generate much of anything until McColgan, who hit the post moments earlier, fired a shot past Carruth that deflected in off a Winterhawks player in front with a second left on the second penalty to tie the score at 11:20.
Portland had a golden opportunity to retake the lead when Blades left-winger Michael Ferland took a double minor for high sticking with just over four minutes remaining in the period. Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, the No. 1 ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting ahead of June's draft, had a good chance off the rush but fired wide as the Blades weathered the storm and were saluted off the ice by a standing ovation from the crowd of 9,239 at the Credit Union Centre.
Coming off Sunday's emotional 5-2 victory over Halifax, the Blades said prior to the game that their focus would be to get on the body early and they did just that, hitting the Winterhawks at every opportunity in the first period.
The biggest collision came when Blades defenceman Dalton Thrower caught Winterhawks right-winger Taylor Leier with his head down just inside the Saskatoon blue-line. A bloodied Leier, who is from Saskatoon, stayed facedown for a few minutes before being helped off the ice and did not return.
Jones found Paul Bittner with a stretch pass midway through the period but the Portland centre was stopped by Makarov.
Matej Stransky then had a chance to put the Blades ahead on a breakaway of his own with under two minutes left, but Carruth made a big save to keep things scoreless after one.