SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — The Portland Winterhawks took a big step toward the Memorial Cup final, beating host Saskatoon 4-2 Wednesday and avoiding the tiebreaker game Thursday.

But the win didn't come without bad news, as second-line winger Taylor Leier took a jarring hit to the head from Dalton Thrower in the first period and had to be assisted off the ice. Leier didn't return to the game, which Portland broke open with three third-period goals.

The Hawks (2-1) moved into the 5 p.m. PT Friday semifinal, and they'll face the winner of Thursday's tiebreaker game between London (1-2 in the tournament) and Saskatoon (1-1).

Halifax (2-1) advanced to the 4 p.m. PT Sunday championship game by virtue of its 7-4 win against Portland. The Mooseheads inexplicably lost to Saskatoon, but then whipped London 9-2 on Tuesday.

Wednesday's Winterhawks game was tied 1-1 entering the third period, with Saskatoon, a 44-win team swept in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs, playing physically to match the skill of the WHL champions.

The Winterhawks, however, broke through against the Blades and goalie Andrey Makarov. The goalie lost his stick on a save off a Tyler Wotherspoon shot, and Oliver Bjorkstrand picked up the loose puck and fed Chase De Leo for the go-ahead goal 4:08 into the third period.

A little more than two minutes later, Brendan Leipsic capitalized with a goal off a breakout play by Seth Jones and set-up pass by Nicolas Petan.

Ty Rattie made it 4-1, taking a pass from Petan and beating Makarov.

"We were real good tonight," Winterhawks coach Travis Green said. "Our first period was outstanding. We got a lot of g,ood looks. The second period was a little choppy. There were lots of penalties and our power plays weren't very good. We talked about just staying with what we do, keep the pace high and hopefully they would wear down, and it paid off in the third period."

Other than a second-period lucky-bounce goal, Portland goalie Mac Carruth stymied the Blades when it counted. He recovered after the seven-goal onslaught by Halifax, and he has allowed only five goals in the past two games.

The Blades kept it close through two periods, thanks to their experience and physical strategy.

"They came out hard and really tried to be physical," Green said.

The first period saw Michael Ferland check Portland rookie Keegan Iverson almost over the boards. Then, Thrower went high to knock out Leier — and wasn't penalized, which upset Hawks coach Travis Green.

"My player's knocked out cold … it's pretty obvious why I'm upset," Green said, adding that it was "pretty obvious" Leier was hit in the head, not in the shoulder.

Carruth stoned Matej Stransky on a first-period breakway.

In the second period, Derrick Pouliot put Portland on the board, as the Hawks forced a Saskatoon turnover and the defenseman scored from the top of the left circle.

Saskatoon kept pressing, as Stransky hit a post and Shane McColgan drew a Pouliot cross-check penalty. Taylor Peters joined Pouliot in the penalty box, giving Saskatoon a 5-on-3 for 1:21 of clock time. The Hawks killed the 5-on-3 — during which Ferland hit Carruth with his stick — but Saskatoon evened the score on a lucky bounce with nine seconds left in the man advantage.

McColgan shot the puck toward Carruth, and it bounced off defenseman Troy Rutkowski and went through the legs of the Portland goalie with Collin Valcourt screening.

The Hawks had their own big power-play opportunity, as Ferland got whistled for a double-minor for high-sticking Rutkowski. But the Blades killed the penalty, taking momentum into the third period.

That was short-lived, as the Hawks came through in the clutch, going ahead 4-1 before Josh Nicholls' late 4-on-4 goal.

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