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  • On Sunday, the Halifax Mooseheads went out and proved they were the no. 1 team, beating the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 to claim the Memorial Cup championship, but they had a secret weapon up their sleeves on Sunday.

    In the dressing room before the final, the players were shown a video made by Kevin Cowper as a personal message to pump them up and get them ready to play the biggest game in their season. The video obviously helped inspire the team, who jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. Chill warning in effect, here is the video below, posted Tuesday on the Mooseheads YouTube account:

    Tournament MVP Nate MacKinnon and CHL Player of the Year Jonathan Drouin sure owned the moment Sunday, earning five points each, with MacKinnon scoring a hat-trick, earning the Nova Scotia squad it's first Memorial

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Mooseheads reveal secret weapon: pre-game video shown to players shows Portland had no chance in Sunday’s final
  • Nathan MacKinnon stole the show at the 2013 Memorial Cup.Saskatoon, Sask. – Halifax Mooseheads star Nathan MacKinnon did just about everything he could at the MasterCard Memorial Cup to leapfrog Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones in the draft rankings.

    In the championship game, MacKinnon outperformed Jones with second-to-none heart and determination. It showed on the stats sheet as he scored a hat trick and two assists to lead the Mooseheads to a 6-4 victory over the Winterhawks. The 5-foot-11, 179-pound centre, who scored seven goals and 13 points in four games, was rightfully so crowned the tournament MVP.

    “I just try to keep it simple and work hard,” said MacKinnon after the Memorial Cup win. “Lately things have been going my way. I try to bring my best when the stakes are high.”

    That's not to suggest Jones had an off night or underperformed in the tournament, though. The 6-foot-4, 206-pounder shinned all the way through as an elite anchor. At times he would speed up the pace of the game by quickly rushing the puck down the ice

    Read More »from Memorial Cup 2013: MacKinnon makes his case against Jones, and other draft notes
  • Zachary Fucale is NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked goaltender (Liam Richards, The Canadian Press)

    SASKATOON, Sask. — Once it was over, Zachary Fucale could finally act 17 years old, practically running amok about the Credit Union Centre ice as the celebrating Halifax Mooseheads provided vocals and hundreds of their fans pounded on the glass to form the percussion section.

    The goalie who is always praised for being the epitome of calm, cool and collected could not stand still. He would stop to talk, then politely excuse himself to keep moving, like the shark without a swim bladder, to pose for another picture. It was like a delayed onset of having to hold it together through the breathless MasterCard Memorial Cup final, where the Mooseheads held off two big surges by the Portland Winterhawks before Nathan MacKinnon's hat-trick empty-netter with 22.4 seconds left sealed the 6-4 win.

    "I don't know how I feel, it's a feeling you can't describe," the Rosemère, Que., native, who made 40 saves on Sunday. "It's such an incredible feeling to win that last game. That was our goal all season.

    "It felt like the longest game ever but now it seems like it went so fast," Fucale added. "As if the past two years flew by. This feels as if it isn't even real."

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Zachary Fucale, winning goalie at age 17, reaches a new level in young career
  • Nathan MacKinnon leaps to celebrate his clinching Memorial Cup goal (Steve Hiscock photo)

    "Nate the Great"? Sounds too cliché. "Nate the Skate"? Perhaps.

    The Great Nate Debate of 2013 is for more than a nickname, of course. The story of the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup was all about the top prospects headlining the event. Nathan MacKinnon's name perhaps wasn't in the biggest type on the marquee, but he out-played and out-produced his rivals on the largest stage he could—the Sunday finale.

    Final score: Halifax - 6, Portland - 4. MacKinnon's three goals, one in the first and one in the second (plus an empty netter), were followed up by an assist he earned by cutting to the net and teammate Konrad Abeltshauser followed up with the garbage. If MacKinnon's insurance goal didn't seal the game, and the QMJHL's first Memorial Cup in Western Canada since 1980,

    The Halifax Mooseheads are champions. Primarily, they're the QMJHL champions, but they won the CHL's showcase event as well in defining fashion. They beat WHL Champion Portland 7-4 in the round robin, and OHL Champs London 9-2. All that was left was a Sunday finish, and the Mooseheads showed up, taking an early lead and never relinquishing.

    No. 1 Star - Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads

    And it was MacKinnon's night. Perhaps Jonathan Drouin is the better playmaker and puck-carrier of the two. There have been other nights this season, surely, when MacKinnon was far and away the better player of the Mooseheads' dynamic duo. It helps that the world got to see his star shine after a disappointing December tournament at the World Juniors when Team Canada coach Steve Spott nailed him to the bench and kept him on the fourth line.

    MacKinnon, who had been propped up as a player who perhaps could have gone ahead of Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting last season if he had been draft-eligible, was quiet. It wasn't his fault, but MacKinnon showed what he can do in front of a national audience all week. With four points on Sunday, he cleared Portland's Ty Rattie in the tournament's leading point-getters, finishing with 13 in just four games, and two hat-tricks against the stingy defence of the Portland Winterhawks.

    Read More »from Memorial Cup 2013: Nathan MacKinnon takes spotlight in Memorial Cup finale – Sunday’s 3 Stars
  • SASKATOON, Sask. — Once more into the breach.

    It is one of the most anticipated MasterCard Memorial Cup finals in several springs: Seth Jones and the Portland Winterhawks will try to win the franchise's third MasterCard Memorial Cup; Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads will try to capture their title. It could be a doozy. 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 7 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Saskatchewan time when the action gets underway.

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    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Portland Winterhawks-Halifax Mooseheads Championship Sunday Chatravaganza, 7 p.m. ET!/5 p.m. MT!
  • Halifax's top line has propelled them to Sunday's final (Canadian Press)

    Nathan MacKinnon has a share of the points lead at the MasterCard Memorial Cup with Ty Rattie. Rattie, the St. Louis Blues prospect and Portland Winterhawks product, has played the one extra game in the tournament. He has five goals in four games and eight points.

    MacKinnon, of the Mooseheads, conveniently taking on Rattie's Winterhawks in tonight's final game, has four goals and eight points in just three games. His offence has been absolutely insane, but half of it came in Halifax's 7-4 win over Portland in the round robin stage. MacKinnon had three goals and an assist in that game.

    If you haven't watched any Halifax games but are looking to tune into tonight's final, here's a primer: the Mooseheads top line is really, really good. They deploy MacKinnon, who is the No. 2-ranked Central Scouting Service prospect, and he's on a line with Jonathan Drouin, ranked No, 3, and Martin Frk, the Czech import selected No. 49 by the Detroit Red Wings last season. Frk has six points and Drouin has four points.

    Read More »from Memorial Cup 2013: MacKinnon, Drouin, and the dominance of Halifax’s top line
  • Mooseheads co-captain Trey Lewis (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)SASKATOON, Sask. — There are two ways Trey Lewis and his Halifax Mooseheads mates can take the groundswell of support spawned by their run to the Memorial Cup final.

    It could causes the walls around a tight-knit group to collapse inwardly. Or it could be one of the spoils of having gone up an incline as steep as Halifax's landmark Citadel Hill across the past four seasons, from 13 wins in 2009-10 to only 12 losses across 88 regular- and post-season games this season.

    Even though the Mooseheads team had the longest distance to travel to the tournament among the three league champs, red-and-green clad fans have steadily popped up in Saskatoon. Back in the Nova Scotia capital, fans have gathered in the city's Grand Parade to watch telecasts on a projection screen. Playoff games at the 10,595-seat Metro Centre have sold out in fewer than 30 minutes, which is unheard of even in precincts where major junior hockey is big business.

    "It's all about maturity," Lewis says. "Being confident and embracing that and making it work to our advantage, that’s worked for us all year. Playing in front of that many fans has helped us. Even when we’re on the road and we’re seeing them watching it on the big screen in Halifax, it’s pretty incredible, really.

    The Moose mania is a reminder that Halifax is a scale-model Canadian answer to another sports-mad East Coast city.

    "I didn’t realize how much support we had until we started doing well," says star centre Nathan MacKinnon, who as every hockey liker knows by now, is from the Halifax suburb of Cole Harbour. "You could compare it to a Boston, that’s for sure."

    Read More »from 2013 Memorial Cup: Halifax Mooseheads who have been around the longest marvel at turnaround
  • 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
  • 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

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