By Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax
SASKATOON - All Seth Jones could do was tip his hat to Nathan MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads after their Memorial Cup opener
© The Canadian Press/Liam Richards
Halifax Mooseheads right winger Stephen MacAulay congratulates Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon after scoring his 3rd goal against the Portland Winterhawks during the second period of Memorial Cup action in Saskatoon, Sask., on Saturday, May 18, 2013.
The Portland Winterhawks’ shell shocked defenceman had little else to say about the 7-4 lashing his team took at the hands of the Herd and its sniper, who stunned the tournament favourites with a second period hat trick before 8,771 fans at the Credit Union Centre on Saturday night.
“You have to give credit to them,” said Jones, the consensus No.1 pick in June’s NHL draft. “They are a great team, they found a way to win. We got away from they way that we play, and they capitalized.”
Jones had nothing but praise for the 17-year-old Cole Harbour native, who’s projected to go right behind him in the draft.
“He didn’t just play a great offensive game, he was back checking, he played well defensively. He’s a great offensive player. He’s got great foot speed, he’s very difficulty to contain.”
He learned that fact on MacKinnon’s second goal, a power play marker with just under six minutes left in the second period. The Mooseheads forward simply blew by Jones on the outside wing before beating Winterhawks neminder Mac Carruth.
Many marked the matchup as a preview of the Memorial Cup final.
As far as MacKinnon was concerned, that game served as a wakeup call to the other three teams battling for junior hockey supremacy.
“We got looked down a little bit coming into the Memorial Cup,” said MacKinnon, who finished with four points. “But we had a very good game and we definitely sent a message.”
MacKinnon’s dominant performance overshadowed a resilient team effort, where the Mooseheads were able to respond to a 3-1 deficit early in the second period with a five-goal frame, giving Halifax a commanding 6-3 advantage going into the third period.
From there, the Mooseheads were able to hold onto the victory.
Once again Mooseheads goalie Zach Fucale found a way to win after a 37 performance.
“Sometime with Fucs there’s those three shots at the beginning or the end of the game, he’s there to make a big save; he’s always there for us,” said co-captain Stefan Fournier.
As usual, Fucale downplayed his performance.
“We’re both two offensive teams on the ice… there ‘s just a couple goals here and a couple there, it’s just the way the game was played tonight.”
Jonathan Drouin, Martin Frk, Luca Ciampini and Stephen MacAulay also scored for the Herd. MacKinnon added an assist to finish with a four-point night.
Troy Rutkowski led Portland with a pair of goals while Ty Rattie and Seth Jones notched single tallies.
For anyone questioning the Mooseheads’ motivation for another title, look no further than Fournier.
“We were reading articles that we not have enough emotion coming into the tournament, and that sparked a lot of emotion in us, he said. We want to win.”