This was the most-anticipated game going into the MasterCard Memorial Cup. Never had the top three ranked prospects ever met each other on the same ice for a meaningful game. After Nathan MacKinnon set up Martin Frk to open the scoring, the projected No. 1 pick Seth Jones tied it up, cutting to the net on a brilliant rush and making the score 1-1.
The Winterhawks took a 3-1 lead, and for a top defensive team like Portland, they could have expected to hold it. But Jonathan Drouin made it 3-2 and then MacKinnon came alive, scoring three goals in the second period and getting the Mooseheads all the way to 6-3. The team's exchanged goals early in the third and it finished at 7-4 for the Mooseheads in an excellent display of offensive hockey.
No. 1 Star - Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads
Rival top prospects Jones and Drouin had already counted before Cole Harbour's Nathan MacKinnon exploded for three goals on his own in the second. He got fortunate on a couple of the goals—the first was a deflection off a Brendan Duke shot and the third was a bank shot off of Portland goaltender Carruth, but the second was a gorgeous skill and power move around Central Scouting's No. 1 prospect:
Storywise, there's the angle that MacKinnon took over the Jones-Drouin-MacKinnon showcase. He did so early on, setting up linemate Martin Frk for a goal that opened the scoring, all while being Halifax's most prominent player on the puck in the neutral and offensive zones. The Portland Winterhawks hadn't given up more than six all season, but the QMJHL champions had little trouble turning on the red light in their opener.
No. 2 Star - Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks
While the Winterhawks may have dropped their first game of the tournament, it wasn't because they had trouble generating offence of their own. Led by the former St. Louis first round selection, the Winterhawks scored three goals through two periods and put up a fourth early on in the third. Ty Rattie had a goal and two assists, and was the most involved Winterhawk player on the team's 18 scoring chances. Four of those chances came off of Rattie's stick, and he also set up a Brendan Leipsic chance early in the second, forcing the Halifax goaltender into making a big stop when the game was still 3-2 for Portland.
No. 3 Star - Stephen MacAulay, Halifax Mooseheads
When the Winterhawks made it 6-4 early in the second, reducing the Mooseheads lead to just two, it looked like there was a very realistic shot of Portland scoring a quick goal or two to make it a game again. But MacAulay, who had been <plug> Buzzing The Net </plug> all night, took a pass from teammate Andrew Ryan and made a power move of his own against Seth Jones, managing to bank the puck in off of Central Scouting's top-ranked prospect.
Bit of a weird bounce, and a lucky goal, but that made the score 7-4 and quelled some of the doubt of the Mooseheads' ability to hold a lead against a powerful offence like the Winterhawks.
Game Grade: Lots of goals is good. Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin, and Nathan MacKinnon all scoring goals is good. But results that aren't in doubt midway through the third are bad. That said, there was lots of good hockey and two good teams on the ice that we will hopefully get to see for a rematch later in the tournament. A-.