Fast start helps Mooseheads hold off Winterhawks' rallies, take title game 6-4

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — Portland's dream season came to an end Sunday, as Halifax exploded for three first-period goals and beat the Winterhawks 6-4 in the Memorial Cup championship game.

Down 3-2 entering the third period, the Winterhawks continued to put on the pressure but couldn't get the equalizer.

Halifax padded the lead with goals by star Nathan MacKinnon and Konrad Abeltshauser, but the Hawks made things tight with late goals by Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie, the latter making it 5-4 with 1:16 left.

MacKinnon's third goal went into an empty net, gave him his second hat trick against Portland in the two Cup games and finished off the Hawks with 22.4 seconds left.

The Winterhawks' memorable year included 117 regular-season points, big-time penalties for excessive player benefits, a Western Hockey League title after back-to-back years as runner-up and a matchup with the other top team in the Canadian Hockey League for the championship.

The Mooseheads beat the Hawks 7-4 in the opening Cup game for both teams. But they each made their way to the championship game, setting up a much-anticipated matchup of great teams and star players — including top prospects Seth Jones and Nicolas Petan of Portland and MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and goalie Zachary Fucale of Halifax.

The Mooseheads executed early with speed, passing, stick work and finish, and goals from Abeltshauser, MacKinnon and Martin Frk put them firmly in control after one period.

Abeltshauser's goal came on a power play, a slapper from the blue line with a screen in front of goalie Mac Carruth.

Later, MacKinnon carried the puck into the offensive zone, and shot past Carruth with three Portland players around him.

And then Frk rifled a slap shot past Carruth off a set-up play from Drouin and MacKinnon.

"I thought we played four to five minutes to our potential," Portland coach Travis Green said of the first period, telling his players, "We have to compete better; we lost too many puck battles."

The Hawks rallied in the second period and scored three goals — but one was overturned.

With Oliver Bjorkstrand in the penalty box for slashing, Portland scored short-handed. Derrick Pouliot carried the puck into the Halifax zone and shot. Rattie rebounded and fed Petan for the nice backhand goal.

Bjorkstrand came out of the penalty box and hit the crossbar with a shot.

Then Rattie appeared to score, as he caught a puck around Fucale's net, put the puck down on the ice and swiped at it to put it in the net. But a replay showed that after Rattie put the puck down with his glove, it went off Fucale's skate and broke the plane of the goal line.

Still, Portland came within 3-2 when Jones took a pass from Rattie from behind the net and made no mistake in Fucale's doorstep in a four-on-four situation.

"We came out a little show," Petan said, "but the boys said (before the second period), 'Compete harder and we'll be fine.' "

Halifax was 65-0-1 this season when leading entering the third period.

MacKinnon padded the lead when he corralled the puck in front of Carruth — kicking the puck to his stick — and beat the Portland goalie at 7:36.

Abeltshauser made it 5-2 at 11:11.

Portland continued to pressure the Mooseheads, though, and drew within 5-3 on Leipsic's goal with 5:28 left.

Rattie, who had three assists, scored with 1:16 left with Carruth on the bench for an extra attacker. The Hawks had other chances, but the Mooseheads gained control of the puck and MacKinnon iced the win with his empty-netter.

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