A game that began slowly picked up in the second and had its defining moment in the third period when St. Louis Blues prospect Ty Rattie ripped a wrist shot that gave the Portland Winterhawks a 2-1 lead that they would not relenquish. The win will put the Winterhawks into the MasterCard Memorial Cup final game on Sunday against the Halifax Mooseheads.
Final score, 2-1. After two seasons of losing in the WHL Championship series, the Winterhawks have done good on their Memorial Cup bid, going 3-1 in the tournament and land a spot in the final. That's all Travis Green could have asked from his squad: one shot to win.
Portland goaltender Mac Carruth had to make a couple of big saves late, his most noteworthy being a glove stop off of an Olli Määttä backhander with two minutes to play, and was strong in the final seconds as time ticked off the clock and ends another season for back-to-back OHL Champion London, who will get an automatic entry next season as the host.
No. 1 Star - Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks
Did Portland Winterhawks play-by-play man Andy Kemper ever copyright the term "Airdrie Assassin"? Ty Rattie has lived up to his billing so far this tournament. He scored his fourth goal in four games Friday night in Saskatoon with a perfect wrist shot midway through the third period. The shot not only flummoxed London goaltender Jake Patterson, but left another victim—we understand that the Saskatoon R.C.M.P. dispatch has been taking calls all week regarding the mysterious disappearance of several water bottles on the top of hockey nets.
No. 2 Star - Mac Carruth, Portland Winterhawks
Carruth's biggest save was off of Määttä, definitely, but he followed that up with a calm save off a Max Domi wrist shot from a good area and held his own on a scramble where it looked like Bo Horvat may have had a good chance.
Carruth stopped 34 of 35 shots—and while it may have seemed like the Knights weren't generating a tonne of good scoring opportunities, Carruth stopped 10-of-11 shots from the scoring area, with big third period stops off of not only Määttä and Domi, but also Alex Broadhurst, who found a path to the net with 5:36 to go. While the Knights jammed Carruth's crease all night, he was strong and never looked rattled like he did in the Winterhawks' lone loss of the tournament... against the Halifax Mooseheads.
No. 3 Star - Derick Pouliot, Portland Winterhawks
Another good game by that surprise No. 8 overall pick from last season. Derick Pouliot, the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, was just about the only Winterhawk chugging his wheels in the first period. While the conventional wisdom is that the only way to beat a neutral zone trap like London's is to chip-and-chase and try and recover pucks, an alternate option is to skate the puck East-West. This strategy usually requires somebody very good at controlling the puck, and that was Pouliot tonight. He recorded an assist on the Rattie goal, pinching in deep and freeing up the puck for Rattie in the corner.
Game Grade: The second period provided a couple of goals and a few exciting moments, but this junior game was closer to an NHL game with its defensive focus, and a tactical, physical nightmare through the opening 20. A sigh of relief that we finally had a game that wasn't over by the 10-minute mark of the third period, however, and one that provided some very nervous moments in the final 120 seconds. B+.