Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Nathan MacKinnon and the Mooseheads are 18-2 in the post-season (Getty Images)

    SASKATOON, Sask. — Exactly three hundred sixty-five days ago, Nathan MacKinnon sat in the stands at the Memorial Cup semifinal, so he has can make comparisons based on firsthand experience.

    The last two teams standing at the end of the contrived cashcow that is the MasterCard Memorial Cup are not always necessarily the two best in the country, but MacKinnon's Halifax Mooseheads and Seth Jones' Portland Winterhawks have pushed through.

    "It was pretty cool, being there last year," MacKinnon, 17, recalled Saturday. "I think it's a little different this year, because it's the top dogs, us and Portland, we've been No. 1 and 2 all year, we've switched back and forth a few times [in the Canadian Hockey League top 10 poll]. It should be a good game."

    "I know he's not worried about me and him, and I'm not worried about me and him," Jones said on Friday. "Nathan's going to do what he can to win the hockey game and if that's score a hat trick, then he's going to go out and try to score a hat trick."

    [Sunaya Sapurji: Stephen MacAulay parlays passion, poise into helping Halifax Mooseheads reach final]

    MacKinnon easily rhymed off the score from when the 17-year-old Sidney Crosby led the Rimouski Océanic into in the 2005 Memorial Cup final — "it was 4-0 for London" — shortly before going first overall to the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2010 final where future top pick Taylor Hall led Windsor past Brandon was also a cakewalk. However it plays out, having must-see draft prospects on each team with Jones, MacKinnon, his linemate Jonathan Drouin and goalie Zach Fucale has ratcheted up the anticipation.

    "I'm the type of the guy, I'm not going to slash my buddy or chirp him, but I'm going to play hard against him and he's going to play hard against me," said MacKinnon, who is very close with Jones. "Both of us are on deep teams. It's not going to be a Nathan vs. Seth thing.

    "Maybe it will be seem pretty special in a few years that we did have the same path. I'm sure we will look back on it fondly."

    As you get the popcorn ready, here is what to expect on Sunday (7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT, Sportsnet/TVA Sports, BTN livechat).

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: ‘It’s not Nathan vs. Seth’; Portland-Halifax, and 5 things to watch for in Sunday’s final
  • Mooseheads co-captain Stefan Fournier (The Canadian Press)

    SASKATOON, Sask. — To find rational, reasonable takes on Hockey Canada banning body checking at the peewee level, ask people involved in high-level hockey instead of scouring Twitter.

    Halifax Mooseheads co-captain Stefan Fournier, star centre Nathan MacKinnon and coach Dominique Ducharme each said they were onside with the recommendations that were passed on Saturday. It's not just an across-the-board ban, but recommendations also include "progressive implementation of checking skills at the atom and peewee level and to better prepare players for body checking at the bantam and midget level."

    Alberta and Nova Scotia's provincial associations removed bodychecking in peewee (ages 11 and 12) recently. Quebec, where the 21-year-old Fournier played his minor hockey, has not allowed it at that age group since the 1980s.

    "There was in summer hockey, which I found was completely acceptable," Fournier said on Saturday. "I think personally for me it keeps people's heads up, it gives awareness. When you're a peewee hockey player the game's not as fast and you learn to keep your head up. That does limit head injuries.

    "For me, there's one regard where it makes people aware," the right wing added. "But at the other token, if people are saying that too many kids at the peewee level are getting hurt, they [Hockey Canada] have to go by their own judgement."

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Halifax Mooseheads, including Nathan MacKinnon, see logic of Hockey Canada peewee bodychecking ban
  • 2013 Memorial Cup: Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon duel one last time in final

    Max Domi and Seth Jones shake hands following Portland's win on Friday (The Canadian Press)

    SASKATOON, Sask. — Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon will share the Memorial Cup stage on Sunday. Wasn't that how the whole production started last Wednesday?

    With no Canadian-based NHL team still alive and only one Stanley Cup playoff game on TV Sunday, a final featuring the two pre-tournament favourites and top three NHL draft prospects should draw a lot of eyeballs to junior hockey. If it doesn't, either the Canadian Hockey League needs to pose tough questions about its marketing or hockey fans need to search themselves for why they don't seek out this level of the sport except at world junior time.

    The 1979 NCAA final between Magic Johnson and Michigan State and Larry Bird and Indiana State pushed college basketball to a new rung in the American media pecking order. Junior puck will probably stay at its accustomed level next season, but it is telling when the only handy comparison happened 34 years ago in a different sport.

    The 18-year-old Portland Winterhawks defenceman and 17-year-old Halifax Mooseheads centre, whose close friendship predated the media-made rivalry, have consistently demurred from being drawn into it. Hockey's humbling ways proscribes such preening. Regardless of the result Sunday, this is already a trip for Jones, MacKinnon and the centre's linemate, left wing Jonathan Drouin.

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon duel one last time in final
  • The London Knights will host the 2014 Memorial Cup after falling short twice as the OHL champion (The Canadian Press)

    SASKATOON, Sask. — The London Knights, for myriad reasons, have the same powers of regeneration as the title character in Doctor Who.

    They will play in a third successive MasterCard Memorial Cup next season, with one picturing the fans of 19 other Ontario Hockey League teams chilling the champagne, 1972 Miami Dolphins-style. Indulging in some sparkling glass of schadenfreude is fine — Tall Poppy syndrome, eh — so long as it's chased with the acknowledgement of how tough the Knights are to get rid off. Led by Pittsburgh Penguins defence prospect Scott Harrington, they fought off elimination four times this spring before finally falling 2-1 to the Portland Winterhawks. Prior to Friday's semi, teams playing the second leg of back-to-back games this week in Saskatoon had been outscored by an aggregate 19-5. Conversely, the Knights took it right down to the triple zeroes against the high-skilled Winterhawks before running out of chances.

    For the second year in a row, Harrington was the first Knight out of the room to speak to reporters after a season-ending 2-1 loss. In 2012, after the overtime loss to Shawinigan in the Memorial Cup final, it symbolized that the captaincy would be handed from Montreal Canadiens prospect Jarred Tinordi to his defence partner. Friday, it was a reminder that while the Knights are a perennial power, some players leave an irreplaceable legacy.

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Scott Harrington, London Knights leave it on the ice in prologue to bid to win on home ice in 2014
  • SASKATOON, Sask. — Seth Jones and the Portland Winterhawks hope that added rest will prove to be their trump card against the London Knights.

    Friday, the three teams still in the chase for the MasterCard Memorial Cup will be whittled down to two after the semifinal between the Knights and Winterhawks (8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT, Sportsnet/TVA Sports). Portland has won two consecutive games since beginning the tournament last Saturday with a loss to the Halifax Mooseheads, who await to play Friday's survivor in the final on Sunday.

    "I thought we've gotten drastically better with every game," Jones said. "We gave up a lead against London but we recovered. Last game, we wore Saskatoon down. I think we're definitely going to get better today."

    Teams playing back-to-back games have been outscored 19-5 in the tournament. The Knights had a tight turnaround, but are focused on pulling the upset.

    "We got to get down there early and bang some bodies early," Knights centre Kyle Platzer said.

    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.

    A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: London Knights-Portland Winterhawks semifinal Chatravaganza, 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT!
  • Winterhawks, Knights set for rematch: Friday’s coast-to-coast

    Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    The Blades being the first team eliminated lets Damien Cox say whatever he wants about their presence in the tournament. (Toronto Star)

    Stray thought: is that well-worn cliché all over but the crying out of date? Nothing wrong with Saskatoon players letting out a little emotion after a junior-career-ending loss. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

    Remember when commissioner Ron Robison had to affirm that come hell or high water, the Blades would play in the Memorial Cup? Yeah. (Between The Lines)

    Prince George, B.C., scribe Jason Peters is supporting Portland, since he remembers hanging out as a child with Winterhawks coach Travis Green. (Prince George Citizen)

    Colorado Avalanche signing Trevor Cheek is rehabbing the torn trapezius muscle which cost him a chance to play in the league final. (The Columbian)

    OHL

    Patrick King tees up the London Knights-Portland semifinal rematch. (Sportsnet)

    London's tiebreaker win over Saskatoon was "embarrassingly easy," writes Morris Dalla Costa. (London Free Press)

    Read More »from Winterhawks, Knights set for rematch: Friday’s coast-to-coast
  • London's Jake Patterson makes one of his 31 saves during Thursday's tiebreaker (Steve Hiscock photo)

    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."

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Knights get on same page, but can they write a redemption song vs. Winterhawks?
  • London's Bo Horvat converts a penalty shot against Saskatoon's Andrey Makarov (Steve Hiscock photo)

    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:

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: London Knights win, Saskatoon punches out; post-game questions
  • 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.

    A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Saskatoon Blades-London Knights tiebreaker Chatravaganza, Thursday 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT!
  • Thrower was a Montreal Canadiens second-round pick in 2012 (The Canadian Press)

    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

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Habs prospect Dalton Thrower out of tournament over headshot

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