The Portland Winterhawks, champions of the Western Hockey League, edged the London Knights 2-1 on Friday to gain entry into the Memorial Cup Final where they will do battle with the QMJHL's top team, the Halifax Mooseheads. The game will be played at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon Sunday night.
Halifax gained automatic entry into the final by topping the four-team tournament's preliminary round. Both the Mooseheads and Winterhawks finished with identical 2-1 records in the opening round but Halifax's 7-4 win over Portland in the first tilt for both teams gave them the tiebreaker.
The Florida Panthers, who hold the second pick in the 2013 Entry draft, will be keeping a close eye on potential gems Seth Jones (expected to go first overall to the Colorado Avalanche), Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.
Nathan MacKinnon is tied with Portland's Ty Rattie for the tournament scoring lead with 8 points (4G/4A) in once less game played. MacKinnon scored 3 goals and added an assist to power the Mooseheads to the win over Portland. In the second game for Halifax, a surprising 5-2 loss to the host Saskatoon Blades, MacKinnon scored a goal. He finished up the preliminary round by dishing out 3 more helpers in a 9-2 romp over London. MacKinnon has posted a +5 rating in the three games he has played.
Jonathan Drouin scored a goal against Portland, went scoreless against Saskatoon and also picked up 3 assists against London. The dynamic winger is +4 so far in the tournament.
Seth Jones notched a goal and was -1 against Halifax, finished with a +4 rating in a 6-3 win over London and picked up an assist and went +1 in the 5-2 victory over Saskatoon to cap the opening round. Jones drew an assist on Tyler Wotherspoon's second period goal which tied the semifinal with London at 1-1 before Rattie potted the game-winner in the third. Jones finished the game with a +2 rating.
MacKinnon and Jones have brought their "A" games to the tournament and Drouin is playing well too. This should be an exciting game, especially from a Panther-perspective, as one of these youngsters will be almost assuredly be on the roster come October.
The game will be broadcast live on the NHL Network Sunday at 7 pm ET.