MacKinnon congratulates Martin Frk (centre) for scoring the first Mooseheads goal (Liam Richards, The Canadian Press)
SASKATOON, Sask. — What Nathan MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads did Saturday seemed pretty big, although it might not look so big to them tomorrow.
MacKinnon had the hat trick plus an apple and the Mooseheads became the first team all season to roll a seven vs. Seth Jones and the Portland Winterhawks, prevailing 7-4 in both league champions' MasterCard Memorial Cup opener. MacKinnon kept the debate over who is the most likely future NHL superstar in clover with a first-star effort. However, it's only the second night of a 10-day tournament, plus Portland accumulated an 11-4 edge in even-strength scoring chances and 18-12 overall. The sharpness of Halifax's power play and shakiness of Winterhawks overage goalie Mac Carruth forestall labelling it a statement win. One can still go so far to say the Mooseheads indicated they didn't grow large by devouring Baie-Comeau bonbons and Rouyn-Noranda raisinettes, as some from the west have intimated about the QMJHL's representative.
"We definitely earned a little more respect I think," MacKinnon said. "Obviously coming from the Q, sometimes we get looked down upon a bit. I think we definitely had a good game and sent a message."
"We got a lot more comfortable," the 17-year-old said of the sea change from the first period to the second. "This is a big stage and there were some butterflies to chase away after the first period. If we face them again we're going to have to be a lot sharper."
It was hardly a perfect Mooseheads performance. Halifax coach Dominque Ducharme said his players were well-aware they had more puck luck.
"I don't have much worries about that, we've been doing that all year," he said. "Even after the game tonight, nobody was overexcited, everybody was happy with the win. We've been working and having that philosophy that it is one day at time since Day 1 in August. We're confident our guys can be better tomorrow."
And oh yes, Nate 1, Seth 0.
"He's a great offensive player, very dynamic," said Jones, who scored the first Winterhawks goal. "He's got great foot speed. You saw on his second goal coming down against me — a quick inside outside move — it's tough to contain."
"I think we gave them opportunities that we shouldn't have and they capitalized."
Halifax (1-0) faces host Saskatoon (0-1) on Sunday (7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT, Sportsnet/TVA Sports, BTN livechat). Portland (0-1) faces London on Monday. On with the post-game questions:
Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads, first team to roll at 7 vs. Seth Jones and Winterhawks; post-game questions