Wotherspoon & Portland beats London 6-3 at Memorial Cup
Portland Winterhawks coach Travis Green must have felt a bit of déjà vu watching his team Monday night at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
For the second straight game he saw a multi-goal lead evaporate, but the first-year coach -- promoted to the top job when Mike Johnston was suspended for the season in November as part of sanctions for player-benefit violations -- never panicked, because he knew his players wouldn't.
He said there was no screaming or fiery speeches made on the bench after the London Knights tied the game. No need for it.
"Nothing specific, just said stay with it," he said if anything was said on the bench. "Can't change what happened, can only take care of the game ahead of you. Our team doesn't really get too high or too low, even when we're winning. We're a pretty relaxed group that works extremely hard."
They kept working, and that work paid off when Derrick Pouliot and Chase De Leo scored 23 seconds apart in the third period to snap a 3-3 tie as the Winterhawks, the Western Hockey League champion, beat the London Knights, the Ontario Hockey League champion, 6-3 for their first victory in round-robin play at the tournament in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Two nights after they blew a two-goal second-period lead in a 7-4 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads, the champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Winterhawks bounced back after blowing an early three-goal lead.
St. Louis Blues prospect Ty Rattie had a pair of goals and an assist, and Taylor Leier, a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, had a goal and two assists for Portland. De Leo and top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand each had a goal and an assist; goalie Mac Carruth, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect, made 25 saves.
It was a big recovery for Carruth, who surrendered all seven Halifax goals on Saturday.
"He's our No. 1 guy and he always has been," Rattie told the London Free Press. "He's the key to our team. Every championship team needs a goalie like Mac Carruth."
Leier, Calgary Flames prospect Tyler Wotherspoon and Seth Jones, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater for this year's draft, all finished plus-4.
"That was a big win for our team," Green said. "We needed to respond with a good effort. That's a real good team over there. That was a hard-fought win and I'm happy with how our team played."
London, which beat the host Saskatoon Blades in the tournament opener, got goals from Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Scott Harrington, 2013 draft prospect Bo Horvat and Blackhawks draft pick Alex Broadhurst.
For the second consecutive year all four teams have started the tournament 1-1, something that had never happened in 30 previous years under the current Memorial Cup format. It guarantees there will be a tiebreaker game Thursday.
Portland led 3-0 after Rattie scored at 10:23 of the second period, but Harrington answered 15 seconds later on a point shot that got past Carruth to start London's comeback.
A spectacular play by top 2013 draft prospect Max Domi let London make it a one-goal game late in the second. Domi took a pass from Seth Griffith, and as he got below the hash marks threw a magical saucer pass between his skates to a driving Horvat, who batted the puck out of the air and past Carruth at 12:30.
The Knights tied the game 1:48 into the third when Broadhurst scored off an odd-man rush on a play that started with Rattie getting hit near the London net and struggling to get back into the play.
"He said he didn't see him get punched in the face," Green said when asked what he was told by the referee. "That's the explanation. Not quite sure how he couldn't see it. But if he didn't see it, he can't really call it."
The goal by London and non-call on what the Portland bench perceived to be a penalty against Rattie seemed to energize the Winterhawks, who took advantage when London's Ryan Rupert was sent to the penalty box for closing his hand on the puck. Pouliot, the Penguins' first pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, fired a shot through traffic that went past London goalie Anthony Stolarz at 6:20 to give Portland the lead for good.
De Leo followed by firing a low shot to the blocker side that beat Stolarz to make it 5-3.
"We took a penalty and they scored on it," London coach Dale Hunter said, "and then the next shift our [defenceman] ran into the referee and they scored and that stopped the momentum."
That ended Stolarz's night; the Philadelphia Flyers prospect allowed five goals on 31 shots and was replaced by 2013 draft prospect Jake Patterson. Rated No. 20 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies, Patterson stopped four of five the shots he faced.
Hunter said he was unsure who would start in goal Tuesday, when the Knights face Halifax.
Portland opened the scoring when Leier tipped Wotherspoon's shot past Stolarz at 16:53 of the first period.
The Winterhawks doubled their lead early in the second period when Bjorkstrand, No. 36 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, made a nice move and beat Stolarz from the slot at 2:17. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Rattie scored to make it 3-0.
Then London made its push to tie the score, but Portland showed its own resilience by getting the late goals to pull out the win.
Portland is off until Wednesday when it faces WHL rival Saskatoon.
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor