Halifax Mooseheads make history, win Memorial Cup
Exciting game comes down to the wire, Mooseheads win 6-4
The Halifax Mooseheads made history in Saskatoon Sunday night, winning a hard-fought game 6-4 over the Portland Winterhawks to take home the Canadian Hockey League's championship trophy and claim the franchise's first Memorial Cup.
Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon won the coveted Stafford Smythe Memorial Cup, awarded to the tournament's most valauble player.
Out of the gate, the Mooseheads had a few opportunities in the first minutes of the first period but were unable to score.
But a penalty against the Winterhawks around the six-minute mark of the first period netted defenceman Konrad Abeltshauser a goal, putting the Mooseheads up 1-0.
A few minutes later, MacKinnon went top-corner to make it 2-0 Mooseheads.
Mooseheads forward Martin Frk secured his team's lead before the end of the first period with another goal assisted by Jonathan Drouin and MacKinnon to make it a 3-0 game at the end of the first.
Second period belonged to Portland
If the first period belonged to the Mooseheads, the second period was all Portland, who out-shot the Herd 18 to 6.
The Winterhawks had a few opportunities to score on their first power play of the game, five minutes into the second period, but they could not get one past Mooseheads goalie Zach Fucale.
Nine minutes into the second period, the Mooseheads were on the power play again. But a short-handed goal by Portland’s Nicolas Petan put the Winterhawks on the board, making it a 3-1 Mooseheads lead.
Five minutes later, it looked as though the Winterhawks Ty Rattie had made it a 3-2 game but upon review, the referees called the goal off, as the replayed showed that Rattie was not able to get a stick on the puck.
With just 1:45 left in the second period, the Winterhawks were able to score on a four-on-four, making it a one-goal game going into the third period.
Hard-fought 3rd period
The third period was hard-fought, back and forth between the Winterhawks and the Mooseheads. The Mooseheads were finallly able to give themselves some breathing room around the 8:30-mark of the third, with MacKinnon scoring his second goal of the game, bringing the Mooseheads two goals ahead of Portland 4-2.
Seconds later, a rush from the Mooseheads netted another goal for Abeltshauser, bringing the score to 5-2.
With less than six minutes left in the third period, the Winterhawks showed they were down but not out, scoring to make it 5-3.
In the dying minutes of the third period, exuberant fans could be heard chanting, "Let's go Mooseheads," as the Herd tried to maintain their lead.
A goal at the 1:20 mark from Portland's Rattie made it a one-goal game, making for an exciting last minute.
But an empty-net goal from MacKinnon sealed Portland's fate.
Moose Nation takes over 'Moosekatoon'
Hundreds of Mooseheads fans, friends and family members made the trip to Saskatchewan to cheer on the only Canadian hockey team left to play for one of hockey's top prizes.
The annual Memorial Cup championship is a chance not only to showcase the best clubs in junior hockey but also the top prospects ahead of next month's NHL draft.
Portland defenceman Seth Jones and Halifax centre MacKinnon are the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. The game also included Halifax winger Drouin, who is ranked as the No. 3 North American skater on the draft list.
With files from The Canadian Press