SASKATOON, Sask. — The stars are aligning for that Portland-Halifax final, but it wasn't just star power that vaulted the Winterhawks over the Saskatoon Blades.
Portland, after absorbing the loss of left wing Taylor Leier on a questionable check in the first period, plugged 16-year-old rookies Paul Bittner and Keegan Iverson into expanded duties and pulled away for a 4-2 MasterCard Memorial Cup win to complete the round-robin. The WHL champs scored three consecutive third-period goals, earning a spot in the Friday's semifinal against the winner of the Saskatoon-London tiebreaker.
"The crowd was unreal and to overcome that shows the character of our team," said right wing Ty Rattie, who scored for the third consecutive game. "Greener [coach Travis Green] calmed everyone down after the first and we went to work in the second and third. Huge character win for the boys. It's good that we get the bypass to the semifinal.
"We want to use our speed against teams like [Saskatoon] and good for us, we got the win."
The Blades stuck with Portland for 40-plus minutes before the Winterhawks' skill won out.
"I think we were a little overconfident after beating Halifax," said right wing Josh Nicholls, who scored a goal. "Our effort wasn't where it needed to be. We realize anything's possible. We came into this game thinking we could get a bye to the final and now we have to take the long way.
"It was a good learning experience for us to [win] that Halifax game and tonight was another learning experience. We'll try to get some redemption [Thursday] against London and keep our tournament alive. Just need to keep that same excitement and that same energy."
The Blades are in the same situation the Shawinigan Cataractes were going into the playoffs at the 2012 Memorial Cup. Saskatoon has to beat all three league champions in succession to win the tournament. On with the post-game questions:Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Portland Winterhawks prevail, Saskatoon Blades sent to tiebreaker; post-game questions