SASKATOON, SK – The Portland Winterhawks will play for the MasterCard Memorial Cup on Sunday, having edged the London Knights 2-1 in the semi-final game of the tournament on Friday night at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, SK.
A third-period goal from Ty Rattie and the brilliant play of goaltender Mac Carruth carried the Hawks past the OHL Champion Knights in what was a hard-fought, intense and competitive contest, and into Sunday’s final where they will face the QMJHL Champion Halifax Mooseheads.
“That was a tough game tonight,” said Winterhawks’ head coach Travis Green. “That’s a very impressive team that we beat tonight.”
Carruth, a 20-year-old from Shorewood, MN, turned in a masterful performance, stopping 34 of 35 shots he faced, including making several outstanding saves over the final few minutes of the third period as London poured on the pressure.
“As a team, we’ve had big games in the past, and that’s what we draw from,” said Carruth, deflecting praise to his team mates. “We got off to a slow start but the boys played well late in the game, and as the game wore on, we were the better team.”
Green, though, delivered the highly-deserved praise on his goaltender’s performance in their most important game of the season.
“I thought it was his best game of the tournament, obviously,” said Green. “Just a great performance by the guy who we’ve leaned on for a long time now, which doesn’t surprise us, but he sure came up big for us tonight.”
Rattie, meanwhile, provided the clutch goal the Winterhawks needed to break a 1-1 stalemate 8:32 into the third period. The 19-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect circled out to the slot from the wall and wired a perfect wrist shot that went into the top left corner over Patterson’s shoulder for his tournament-leading fifth goal.
“He’s unbelievable, and in the playoffs he is lights out…just look at his record,” said Carruth of Rattie’s penchant for clutch performances. “He competes for not a very big guy, and he played the game the right way.”
The Knights did nearly everything they needed to do to shut down the Winterhawks and give themselves a chance to win. In the end, it was a great shot by a star sniper and the outstanding saves of the Hawks’ netminder that ended the Knights’ season.
“I can’t say enough about the players on this team, and they gave it right to the end,” said London head coach Dale Hunter, whose team opened the scoring with Max Domi’s power play marker 12:43 into the second period. “Rattie made a great shot, and their goaltender made some big saves at the end of the game.”
“I thought our guys did a great job of battling all through the tournament, and we had another great game tonight,” said Knights’ captain Scott Harrington of the team’s effort. “To lose 2-1 is heartbreaking, but that’s the way it goes.”
Tyler Wotherspoon had the other goal for the Winterhawks, tying the game up at 1-1 just 2:08 after Domi’s opening goal.
Knights’ netminder Jake Patterson enjoyed a strong outing, stopping 32 of 34 shots in the loss.
The Winterhawks now set their sights on Sunday’s rematch versus the Halifax Mooseheads. The Hawks’ lone loss in the tournament came with a 7-4 defeat to the Mooseheads last Saturday.
“We have one more 60-minute game left for all the marbles,” said Rattie. “This is what we’ve wanted right from the start of the season, and now the top two teams in the CHL are going to go head-to-head in the final.”
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)