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  • 16 Apr 2014

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Hawks skate to Memorial Cup finals

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — The Portland Winterhawks survived a thrilling semifinal game, edged London 2-1 Friday and advanced to the championship matchup of the Memorial Cup tournament.

The Winterhawks play Halifax at 4 p.m. Sunday. The Mooseheads beat Portland 7-4 in the opening game for both teams.

Ty Rattie scored the game-winning goal on a wicked wrister midway through the third period, his fifth of the tournament, and goalie Mac Carruth led the way as the Hawks held off London. Carruth stopped 34 shots and an onslaught of Knights chances in the final moments. London pulled goalie Jake Patterson with 1:17 left, and played valiantly with the man advantage, making great plays to keep the puck in the zone and even stopped an empty-net goal attempt by Portland.

But, Carruth was up to the challenge, and the 20-year-old goalie enters the championship game playing very well. Since allowing seven goals against Halifax, he has allowed six in the past three games — three to London, two to Saskatoon and one to London in the semifinal.

Halifax star Nathan MacKinnon scored three goals against Portland the first time around. As expected, the first matchup featured stars galore — MacKinnon ranks No. 2 and teammate Jonathan Drouin No. 3 behind Portland's Seth Jones in Central Scouting ratings for the upcoming NHL draft; Zachary Fucale sits atop Central Scouting's goalie ratings — and it didn't disappoint. Portland burst to a 3-1 lead in the second period, before the Mooseheads pulled away with five consecutive second-period goals in very impressive fashion, rattling Carruth and negating Portland's lethal skaters.

But, it's a championship game, and anything can happen. Portland has played in two Memorial Cup title games, and won them both — in 1983 and 1998.

Halifax was founded in 1994 and played host to the Memorial Cup in 2000. A Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team has won the past two Memorial Cup tournaments — Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011 and host Shawinagan Cataracts last year (beating London, 2-1 in overtime).

Halifax and Portland have been the Canadian Hockey League's two top teams during the season. It's only fitting that they play for the championship.

The Winterhawks-London semifinal game was tight and well-played.

It was scoreless after one period. The Knights got on the board first after the first penalty call of the game — checking-from-behind on Portland's Brendan Leipsic. On the power play, London's Max Domi skated into the slot and ripped a shot that fooled Carruth at 12:43 of the second period.

The Hawks got the tying tally when Tyler Wotherspoon's wrist shot from the point snuck through traffic, bounced off a skate and past Patterson.

Domi got a roughing call for Portland's first and only power play in the third period, but the Knights killed the man-down situation.

But, Rattie, the Western Hockey League's all-time leading playoff goal scorer with 50, scored maybe the most important goal of his career. After a dump-in, Derrick Pouliot got the puck to Rattie, who skated right and whipped his wrister over the right shoulder of Patterson, who saved 32 of 34 shots against.

From there, it was frenetic, with Portland holding off London's charge to win the memorable semifinal game and the three-time WHL champs now play for the championship of major junior hockey.