Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hawks soar over the Knights

Ty Rattie (Portland Winterhawks)
If you were lucky enough to be able to watch the London Knights/Portland Winterhawks matchup Monday evening then you got a chance to see not just one top prospect but as many as 30 prospects. Yes that is right 30 NHL prospects who either are signed, drafted or listed by Central Scouting took part in the game between the Knights and Winterhawks (Stick tap to Todd Vrooman and Andy Kemper of the Winterhawks for this).

The game didn't disappoint either as the Portland Winterhawks earned their first win of the Memorial Cup 6-3 and for the 2nd straight year, the Memorial Cup has all 4 teams with a 1-1 record. I for one totally disagree with those who think this is bad for the cup as to me what it means is that every game counts. There is none of the easy path's to the Cup finals as all 4 teams playing have a chance to earn their way to the finals.

It is good for junior hockey because the CHL is in their own way showing NHL fans what the future of the NHL is going to look like and it sure looks good. There was some great plays made by both teams including a goal from perhaps one of the more underrated prospects player in the Memorial Cup, Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks. Rattie was the 32nd pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues and for the most part has been overshadowed by the better known names who have played for the Winterhawks in recent years. More on Rattie later as the game was almost a chess match in the beginning with Portland trying to solve London's trapping defense.

Portland got on the board off a nice deflection of a Tyler Wotherspoon shot by teammate Taylor Leier who tipped in the 5 hole past a handcuffed London goalie Anthony Stolarz. Portland with the goal at 16:53 of the first period grabbed a 1-0 lead that they took into the first intermission. In the second period Portland would extend their lead to 2-0 when Oliver Bjorkstrand carried the puck out of the corner and just snapped a shot past Stolarz at 2:17.

Portland would make it 3-0 when Ty Rattie would score his 2nd highlight reel goal of the Memorial Cup in as many games. With the teams playing 4 on 4, Rattie took the puck from his defensive zone carried into the offensive zone then cut across the slot moving the puck to his backhand and with a London defender all over him beats Stolarz at 10:23.

Have a look for yourselves as courtesy of Sportsnet are the highlights. Rattie's goal starts at the 37 second mark.

Portland was up 3-0 but that lead didn't hold as London got on the board 15 seconds after the Rattie goal when Scott Harrington fired a blast past Mac Carruth for London's first goal at 10:38. Less than 2 minutes later with London on a power play, Max Domi of London with a between the legs pass to Bo Horvat who roofed his shot to cut Portland's lead to 3-2.

In the 3rd, London would tie the game on a missed call as Ranger prospect Tommy Hughes with either a stick or fist bloodied Ty Rattie leaving him face first on the ice. Play continued while Rattie struggled to make it back to the Portland bench and London took advantage to tie the game up at 3 just 1:48 into the period.

The goal by London's Alex Broadhurst had Tommy Hughes (NYR 2013 UFA) credited with a secondary assist for his first point of the Memorial Cup (Portland fans might argue that the assist was for taking Rattie out). Portland would regain the lead for good when Portland's Derrick Pouliot cashed in a Ty Rattie rebound for what proved to be the game winning goal at 6:20. 23 seconds later at 6:43Portland's Chase De Leo would make it 5-3 of a nice pass from Bjorkstrand and then Rattie would get the final word when he scored an empty net goal at 19:05 for the final tally.

Rattie finished with a 2-1-3 evening yet only winds up as the game's 3rd star but in many ways that fits with how Rattie has been in the shadows whether it was Seth Jones this season, Nino Niederreiter 2 years ago and Sven Bartschi last season.

All Rattie has done as a Winterhawk is score as he broke the record for the most career goals in the WHL playoffs with 51 in 76 career playoff games this year. And if you think Rattie is just a goal scorer then you would be wrong as Rattie has 45 assists during the same span of time. His goals to assists ratio is as close to 1:1 as one can expect from a top player. Rattie was the WHL's Playoff MVP after the Winterhawks won the WHL Title as Rattie was 20-16-36 in 21 games.

Rattie has had back to back 100 point seasons the last 2 seasons and I would not be at all surprised that when the smoke is cleared that Rattie winds up with the more productive NHL career than any of the bigger named Winterhawks. It is just how he does things quietly but very efficiently.

With the Memorial Cup all knotted up with all 4 teams having 1-1 records for the second straight year, each team has a shot at heading to the finals just as much as they do winding up in the tiebreaker game with a loss. London plays Halifax on Tuesday with the winner assured of at the very least a spot in the semifinals. Portland and Saskatoon are in the same situation on Wednesday but the picture will be much clearer when they play.

That Saskatoon has a chance to wind up playing in the Cup finals despite being eliminated in the first round of the WHL playoffs just might drive many of the Memorial Cup critics insane which in some cases would be worth watching.

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