Fri May 24 02:54am EDT
Saskatoon, Sask. – The way the Saskatoon Blades exited the MasterCard Memorial Cup in the tiebreaker against the London Knights was fitting.
In the 6-1 loss, the Bridge City Boys struggled with the same problems they have dealt with all year long such as taking dumb penalties, not capitalizing on valuable opportunities, and failing to put it into fifth gear with their backs against the wall.
The first nail in the coffin came almost right off the hop in the first four minutes of the game. Blades forward Josh Nicholls tripped Bo Horvat on a breakaway after the Knight snuck by their power play with the puck on his stick. Horvat was rewarded a penalty shot and made no mistake about it.
“It is for sure deflating,” said Blades captain Brendan Walker on the penalty shot goal. “That’s a big goal to give up and we shouldn’t have, but that stuff happens.”
Early in the second, the Blades had a great opportunity to even up the game on a four-minute power play. But they failed to generate a true scoring chance on the man advantage, only putting three shots on Knights goaltender Jake Patterson. Not too long after that failed opportunity, blueliner Matthew Pufahl made a poor decision by cross checking Ryan Rupert after he came in on Andrey Makarov despite the officials calling the play dead on an offside. Apparently, neither player heard the whistle.
“I was just trying to save a goal, I didn’t hear the offside whistle,” said Pufahl. “I thought I was just making a defensive play to stop a player from scoring on Makarov.”
Knights forward Seth Griffith scored on the man advantage, followed by Chris Tierney potting one just 49 seconds later to give the Knights a 3-0 lead. These two quick goals seemed to deflate the Blades’ confidence.
“Second period took the wind out of our sails and we were never able to get it back,” said Blades defenceman Duncan Siemens.
After stopping 30 of 33 shots throughout the first 40 minutes, Makarov’s tires fell off in the final frame. The Buffalo Sabres prospect let in three goals on five shots in the first three minutes of the period.
Rightfully so, the team isn’t putting any of the blame on their Russian netminder, who was their MVP throughout the regular-season.
“He kept us in there in the first two periods and he was great in our first three games,” said Pufahl. “He’s a great goalie and you can’t blame him for this loss. We only scored one goal.”
“He’s been great all year,” added Walker. “You can’t blame anything on him.”
Nathan Burns finally put Saskatoon on the board at the 11:40 mark in the third, but by that time, it was too little too late for the Bridge City Boys.
To Saskatoon’s defence, they were playing back-to-back games against two teams with 16 playoff wins apiece. Not to mention, they were up against a Knights club that was eager to redeem themselves after falling 9-2 to the Halifax Mooseheads on Tuesday.
"Tonight, we ran out of gas," said Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken. "I thought that we played fairly well in the three round-robin games even though we were outchanced in every game. After that Halifax game [which the Blades won on Sunday] there was so much emotion around it with the team and the fans. We came down and we just couldn't regain that emotion and that energy."
“We just didn’t have the energy,” added Walker. “I think some guys were worn down. We have been through three wars and I don’t think this game went down as the others (did).”
Injuries and suspensions also affected the Blades. They were without Montreal Canadiens defensive prospect Dalton Thrower because of his suspension from his head shot on Portland Winterhawks winger Taylor Leier and 19-year-old forward Nathan Burns was playing through an ankle injury.
“Nathan Burns sprained his ankle and had to freeze his ankle twice throughout each game,” noted Molleken.
With it all said and done, is a 1-3 record really a let down from the Blades? They were, after all, a team without a playoff win in the last two years up against three clubs that conquered their respective leagues this season. It seems, besides running out of gas against London in the tiebreaker of course, the Blades put in a respectable effort. They topped a very talented Halifax club 5-2 and kept up with London and Portland in their round-robin games, for the most part anyways. These three performances were light years ahead of how they played in the playoffs against the seventh-place Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Blades don't have a banner to show for hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup, but at least they can hold their heads up high knowing they held their own against the three top dogs of the CHL.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen
Fri May 24 01:30am EDT
SASKATOON, Sask. — Now watch Dale Hunter start Anthony Stolarz on Friday, just to destroy a hypothesis.
For London Knights captain Scott Harrington and friends, 60 uninterrupted minutes supporting he same goalie, Jake Patterson, is a bigger windfall than winning the 50/50 draw at Credit Union Centre. Thursday's bloodless 6-1 tiebreaker-game romp over the tapped-out Saskatoon Blades offered little indication of whether London has worked out the bugs in their systems ahead of Friday's semifinal vs. the Portland Winterhawks. Ultimately, the Knights are still the Memorial Cup mix with the Winterhawks and Halifax Mooseheads, who blasted a combined 14 goals by their 'tenders during the round-robin.
Patterson stopped 31-of-32 shots, but Grade-A chances were fewer and farther between. At least it was a complete game from a Knights goalie.
"We've had some up-and-down games and been inconsistent, so it's nice that Jake could have a solid game and play a full 60 for us," said Knights captain Scott Harrington, who was his usual unflappable self while helping London put the game away by the two-period mark. "I'm obviously not a goalie. I don't know what the positive and negative tendencies of a goalie are. But whenever you see Jake out challenging a shot and playing with confidence it rubs off on the rest of us. We know that Jake's ready to go and he's sharp and he's prepared to go to bat for us."
"We're really looking forward to it," said Harrington, who has either one of two games left in an exemplary junior tenure that's included two OHL titles and two stints on Team Canada, but neither a Memorial Cup or a world junior title. "We didn't give Portland our best game last time. It'll be important for us to get off to a good start and go from there."
Fri May 24 01:14am EDT
SASKATOON, Sask. — London located a little of its swagger, while Saskatoon staggered to the finish line.
The tiebreaker game was an open-and-shut case, with with Alex Broadhurst, Bo Horvat, Chris Tierney and Brett Welychka each posting two-point nights during the Knights' 6-1 win over the emotionally spent Blades. It creates a London-Portland Winterhawks semifinal Friday, with the Halifax Mooseheads awaiting the victor.
"It's still not our goal and it's still not the same team that gave us the 9-2 beating," said Knights forward Ryan Rupert, alluding to the Mooseheads.
"Coming back from a 9-2 loss with a big one is a confidence-booster. It's also big for our goalie [Jake Patterson] to let one [goal] in after they've been a bit shaky."
In a 24-hour span, the Blades went from needing to win one period to advance directly to the final to being eliminated rather easily. Their unravelling accelerated after a fruitless four-minute power play in the second — London had three shots on the penalty kill while only giving up one — followed an undisciplined penalty that led to Seth Griffith burying the 2-0 goal.
"Tonight, we ran out of gas," said Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken, whose team went 1-3 while being outscored 15-9. "I thought that we played fairly well in the three round-robin games even though we were outchanced in every game. [Goalie Andrey] Makarov was tremendous. After that Halifax game [which the Blades won on Sunday] there was so much emotion around it with the team and the fans. We came down and we just couldn't regain that emotion and that energy. Our players have nothing to be ashamed about. After 51 days after hard practice [after the Blades were swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs], they left it on the ice."
Saskatoon is only the second host team in the past decade to fall short of the semifinal, joining the 2009 Rimouski Océanic. Eight of the previous nine host teams went to the final. On with the post-game questions:
Thu May 23 11:07pm EDT
"And we will see you tomorrow, Knights."
It was another one of those games at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. After submitting to a humiliating 9-2 loss on Tuesday, the London Knights took it out on the host Saskatoon Blades with as dominant a performance as you'll ever see. Three teams remain in the quest for the Memorial Cup, as the field is trimmed to the three CHL championship teams.
Bo Horvat kicked off the scoring on a shorthanded penalty shot early in the first period, and while Andrey Makarov held the Blades in the game, managing to make a couple of big stops on a Saskatoon four-minute powerplay gone wrong. Alas, eventually he broke under the strain of the relentless London pressure. The OHL champs got goals from six different goal scorers and put up a three-spot early in the third period, eventually earning a 6-1 victory.
The Knights hoped to play better defensively in front of their goaltender tonight, but they put on a terrific offensive performance as well.
No. 1 Star - Bo Horvat, London Knights
Bo knows penalty killing, evidently. He opened the scoring on a shorthanded breakaway that turned into a shorthanded penalty shot, and was instrumental in turning the Blades back on their four-minute long powerplay in the second period that generated nothing.
Horvat added an assist on the sixth London goal, but he belongs here based on his PK work primarily. That long penalty kill was probably what won the game for the Knights. It was only 1-0 at that point and the Blades had an excellent opportunity to tie the score.
Thu May 23 05:30pm EDT
SASKATOON, Sask. — Then there will be three. The London Knights and Saskatoon Blades face off in the first elimination game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The Knights, in what could be the be the final game for long-time fixtures such as captain Scott Harrington and Seth Griffith, will start goalie Jake Patterson as they try to regroup from a 9-2 loss to Halifax earlier in the week. The host Blades are trying to take the first step as they bid to beat all three league champions to win the tournament.
Please join the Buzzing The Net crew of Cam Charron, Terry Doyle, Kelly Friesen, Steve McAllister Sunaya Sapurji, Neate Sager, Scott Sepich and a cast of many at 8 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Saskatchewan time when the action gets underway.
Thu May 23 04:12pm EDT
During last season's MasterCard Memorial Cup, it was the London Knights who brought the heat defensively. Led by a five-man unit up front centred by Austin Watson and anchored by Jarred Tinordi on defence, the Knights blocked shots, trapped, and were an opportunistic team that afforded little space to skilled players like Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou.
What a difference a year makes. The Knights were lit up for nine by the Halifax Mooseheads, and their first line is considerably more offensive than it was last season. Domi and Bo Horvat and Seth Griffith have combined for the Cup's most memorable moment thus far, although we're only two-thirds of the way through the tournament.
It's more up-tempo and more flowing. London games have been a treat to watch, unlike perhaps last season where they shut down rushes and restricted scoring chances. No... that title this season goes to the Saskatoon Blades, and Lorne Molleken's underdog, host squad that are pulling out all the stops to win.
Thu May 23 02:30pm EDT
SASKATOON, Sask. — Taylor Leier's Memorial Cup tournament is over and so is Dalton Thrower's.
When Thrower, the Saskatoon Blades defenceman, kayoed Leier with a bodycheck on Wednesday, the gut reaction was that there would be a suspension. Sure enough, the National Hockey League hockey operations department, which handles these matters at the MasterCard Memorial Cup, has suspended the 19-year-old Thrower for the rest of the tournament. While no penalty was whistled, it looked like a textbook example of the type of play all three leagues within the Canadian Hockey League have tried to phase out of junior hockey.
The ban means Thrower will miss the Blades-London Knights sudden-death tiebreaker on Thursday (8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT, Sportsnet/TVA Sports, BTN livechat). Winterhawks coach Travis Green said Leier has brain injury-like symptoms. The 18-year-old Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, who was one of Portland's brightest performers during a tournament in his hometown, did not require an overnight hospital stay.
"I don't have to keep watching it again," Green said. "It's pretty obvious when a player is out before he hits the ice. It's basically a blow to the head."
Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken said following the game that Thrower's principal point of contact was Leier's chest area.
"Thrower's played extremely well in this tournament. He's a physical player. We all have different opinions about the hit."
Thrower's absence hurts the Blades' depth on the blueline. Molleken will likely have to give more ice time to his youngest defenceman, 16-year-old Nelson Nogier.
"Thrower plays on our power play, he plays in our top four," Molleken said. "If he's not in our lineup it will be a chance for young Nelson Nogier to step in [to a larger role]. Kyle Schmidt will step in."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.
Thu May 23 11:31am EDT
Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...
Sunaya Sapurji looks at the possibility of a suspension to Saskatoon Blades defenceman Dalton Thrower after his high hit on Portland Winterhawks left wing Taylor Leier. (Yahoo! Sports)
Winterhawks centre Chase De Leo was the one who helped the stricken Leier off the ice. He later scored to put Portland ahead for good. (The Oregonian)
Beat all three league champions in a row? If the Saskatoon Blades pull that off, next they can try head to Toronto for an easier trifecta: figuring out how to turn around the Blue Jays, how the Raptors can get Andrew Wiggins next year and what to do about Rob Ford. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
Meantime, to the south of the Memorial Cup city, Rob Vanstone looks at the positive legacy left by former Regina Pats president Brent Parker. (Regina Leader-Post)
The Vancouver Giants have some big plans for their 2016 Memorial Cup bid, but who ever heard of a team hosting the event twice in 10 years ... oh right. (Straight.com)
London Knights goalies Jake Patterson and Anthony Stolarz have struggled to the point where one can wonder if about next season, too. (London Free Press)
London is projecting a when-the-bell-tolls attitude ahead of the first elimination game of the tournament. (London Free Press)
Thu May 23 02:04am EDT
Saskatoon, Sask. – The Saskatoon Blades know they don’t have time to dwell on their 4-2 loss against the Portland Winterhawks in their final round-robin game on Wednesday.
The Bridge City Boys have to regroup quickly and focus on the London Knights in the MasterCard Memorial Cup's tiebreaker game not even 24 hours after getting off the ice.
“Usually after a loss, you have a couple days to look back at your mistakes and go over the game, but not this one,” said Blades winger Shane McColgan, who scored Saskatoon’s first goal of the game. “We have to have a short memory and just put the game behind us. We now just have to get prepared for the Knights.”
“We have to forget this game just focus on London for tomorrow night's game,” added Blades forward Brett Stovin. “We now have to win every game from here on out and have to focus on just what is ahead of us.”
Star forward Josh Nicholls believes playing against London shortly after the Portland loss can work to Saskatoon’s advantage.
“We are hungry to bounce back from this game and I think it’s good we don’t have to wait long for the game,” he said. “We know what we have to do and I’m just excited to play tomorrow.”
The Blades kept up with the Winterhawks throughout the first two periods, heading into the final 20 minutes tied at one. Their wheels, however, fell off in the final frame as they gave up three goals in the first 11 minutes.
“We just stopped playing,” said McColgan on the third period collapse. “When they scored to make it 2-1, you could we got deflated, and that just can’t happen at this time of the year. We now have to look ourselves in the mirror and see if we really want to be here or not because that first 13 minutes (in the third) wasn’t acceptable.”
Blades head coach-GM Lorne Molleken felt his club didn’t pepper Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth enough.
"We didn't shoot enough," he said. "We tried to get too fancy and that's not one of our strengths. Our decision-making wasn't as good as it needs to be …We'll have to be at our best tomorrow night and our game can't change."
Saskatoon’s round-robin match against London was a close tilt with the Knights squeaking out a 3-2 win. The second time around, the Blades feel more confident they can best the OHL champions.
“Knowing what to expect, it’s a bit easier on the team to prepare,” said Nicholls, who inked a contract with the New York Rangers in March. “The first game was close and they scored a goal late in the third. We know if we play like we did against the Halifax Mooseheads (Blades beat the Mooseheads 5-2 on Sunday), we can win.”
“It’s always easier when you know what to expect,” added McColgan. “We just have to get back to the basics and play how we did against Halifax.”
The Knights had puck-stopping problems against the Mooseheads on Tuesday. Jake Patterson and Anthony Stolarz let in a combined nine goals on 37 shots. The Blades obviously want to exploit this hole in the Knights’ armour.
“Their goaltending situation seemed a bit fragile, so we’re going to have to put pucks to the net and create traffic there,” said Nicholls.
As a 20-year-old, Nicholls has extra motivation to help his club beat the Knights because if they fall, it will be his last major junior game of his life.
“It will be a long summer if we don’t accomplish what we want to do here, so that definitely pushes me,” said the 6-foot-2, 186-pounder who has scored four goals and two assists in the tournament. “Knowing it could be my last game definitely makes me want to leave the ice with no regrets.”
The tiebreaker game could not only be McColgan’s last junior game, but it could also be his last opportunity this year to show the Rangers, who drafted him 134th overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft, he deserves an entry-level contract.
“I try to just think about the team, but yeah, I don’t take these games lightly as an opportunity to earn an NHL contract,” the Manhattan Beach, CA., native said, who turned 20 in January. “It’s a big game and I just need to keep my feet moving and create chances out there.”
The Rangers have until June 1 to sign McColgan or he will become a free agent.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen
Thu May 23 01:41am EDT
SASKATOON, Sask. — Not a chance in hell the Saskatoon Blades fans who left to beat the traffic were handed the Portland Winterhawks calling card as they moved toward the exits.
It would have been appropriate, though, since the Winterhawks' 4-2 win over the host Blades in front 9,239 at the Credit Union Centre conformed exactly to the Portland prototype. Portland has been crushing home fans' hopes all season long. Beating London on Monday was nice and all, but it was a neutral-site game. Beating Saskatoon — which Portland doesn't play often enough to have a real beef with, but which might stand in for the WHL establishment — fit the the description. With its speed, transition game and tight defence, Portland wore out the Blades.
"I'll be honest, we're definitely we're going to enjoy this one," said Seth Jones, mindful of the chance of a rematch with Saskatoon on Friday. "But now we have to refocus and get ready for the semifinal.
"It was very physical, but we were able to keep playing our game and wear them down in the third period. I like where we are right now."