SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — A three-goal third period on Wednesday earned the Portland Winterhawks a spot in the Memorial Cup semifinals.
Chase De Leo, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie scored to pull away from a third-period tie as Portland beat the host Saskatoon Blades 4-2 in the final game of the round-robin phase of the tournament.
The result means Portland will next play at 5 p.m. PDT on Friday in the semifinal game. The Winterhawks opponent will be the winner of Thursday’s game between Saskatoon and the London Knights.
The Halifax Mooseheads, based on their win over Portland, have clinched a spot in Sunday’s championship game.
“I thought our guys did a good job of sticking with the way we want to play, execute and manage the puck, and I thought it paid off in the third period,” acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green said.
Wednesday’s game was tied 1-1 after each team scored once in the second period. Portland took the lead for good 4:08 into the third period when De Leo jammed the puck past goalie Andrey Makarov. Makarov lost his goalie stick blocking a Tyler Wotherspoon shot, Oliver Bjokstrand collected the rebound behind the net and sent a pass to De Leo, whose second chance eluded the goalie.
Just over two minutes later, Leipsic scored from the high slot at the end of a quick transition play started by Seth Jones. Jones passed the puck up the left-hand wall to Nic Petan, who centered the puck to Leipsic.
Rattie’s fourth goal of the tournament, at the end of another quick transition play, made the score 4-1 10:16 into the third period.
Mac Carruth was solid in goal for the second consecutive game for Portland, stopping 29 shots. Shane McColgan, on a second-periiod deflection, and Josh Nichols, with under four minutes to play, scored for Saskatoon.
The first period was scoreless, but not without action. The Blades played a physical game from the start, an effort to counter Portland’s skilled forwards and mobile defensemen. The hit that had the most impact was made by Saskatoon defenseman Dalton Thrower, who leveled Portland’s Taylor Leier as Leier entered the attacking zone. Thrower’s shoulder caught Leier square in the face. The Portland forward crumpled to the ice and did not return to the game with an apparent head injury.
After the game Green said he didn’t yet know Leier’s condition, but he had a clear opinion of the play, on which no penalty was called.
“We lost one of our better players on a hit that I thought should’ve been a major (penalty),” Green said.