Saturday, May 25, 2013

And then there was none

Tommy Hughes (#14) (Saskatoon Blades)
This is why we watch ice hockey because no matter what level we are watching, the last minute of any game can come down to a matter of inches as the Portland Winterhawks held off the London Knights 2-1 to advance to Sunday's final of the 2013 Memorial Cup. It wasn't the textbook classic game but it was a fight and forgive the corny cliche but London has nothing to be ashamed of as they fought with everything they had.

This was a good hockey game that deserved to be seen by more than the Canadian fans and those living in Oregon. London actually did well with their trap making it hard for Portland to establish any kind of offensive flow in a scoreless first period. The Knights got the first goal of the game in the second period when Max Domi cashed in a power play goal for what turned out to be the only goal he would score in the Memorial Cup.

The goal was an "excuse me" as Domi's first attempt he fanned on but it was enough to get Portland goalie Mac Carruth out of position as he was looking for the first shot. Don't knock Domi for having a 1-1-2 line during the Memorial Cup as he was solid at both ends of the ice. I would take him with a middle of the first round draft pick.

London's 1-0 lead didn't last as Portland got it right back a little over two minutes later when Portland's version of Ryan Callahan, Brendan Leipsic (congrats on the contract Brendan) pestering London goalie Jake Patterson and Ranger's prospect Tommy Hughes (2013 UFA) allowed Tyler Wotherspoon to get a shot that deflected in off the skate of Hughes to tie the game up.

The game then turned into more of a chess match with neither team able to get one past through the rest of the second period and the early part of the third period when Portland would finally take the the lead. And it was Ty Rattie who if Portland wins the Memorial Cup deserves the MVP for his play throughout the entire tournament. For the 4th straight game Rattie scored and this one was just as pretty as Rattie comes off the left boards and fires a shot that goes in over the shoulder of Patterson to give Portland a 2-1 lead.

London did not go away as they fought back registering several good scoring chances that Carruth kept out of the net and with help from his defensemen didn't allow for any major rebounds. Still the last 2 minutes was exactly the kind of hockey that fans want to see; London had several scoring chances and despite having an open net, Portland couldn't get enough breathing space to seal the win. It came down to the final horn and Portland wins 2-1.

This sets up a dream final of Halifax vs Portland on Sunday night. Call your friends, family and everyone else as this game is one the NHL Network USA starting at 7 PM EDT/ 4 PM PDT. A chance to see 3 of the top NHL prospects going head to head.

Halifax won the first matchup 7-4 and it will be interesting to see if Portland can come up with the better game plan.

And the last one is done

London's loss in the semifinals means that Tommy Hughes career in the OHL ends and his journey to become a Ranger begins. Hughes was no offensive threat when he was in the OHL playing in 169 games and recording all of 3-29-32 during that time. Yes the first thing Hughes is going to need to do is find himself enough offense to earn a ticket to the NHL.

Defensively won't be a problem as he does all the right things on defense. Hughes plays a physical brand of hockey punishing anyone who tries to set up in his area. He will put his body on the line just like Dan Girardi does and give credit to the London coaching staff for teaching their players how to play an NHL brand of defense.

Jeff Beukeboom will find that he has a very coachable student in Hughes but even with offense, Hughes projects to be a 3rd pair defender but he will be one who can eat up minutes.

No comments: