Thursday, May 23, 2013

Winning and losing at the same time

Shane McColgan scores (CHL/WHL Images)
The talk about the final round robin game at the 2013 Memorial Cup isn't about the Portland Winterhawk's 4-2 win over the Saskatoon Blades but rather the really suspect hit that Saskatoon's Dalton Thrower hit Portland's Taylor Leier with. Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I do like hard hitting hockey and if you took the time to watch the video before reading then you saw what a really clean hard hit looks like when Saskatoon's Michael Ferland hit Keegan Iverson at the start of the clip.

(Sorry I had to remove the clip because it was causing all sorts of conflicts with the blog)

That said the biggest problem facing hockey as a whole is going to be hits to the head, yes they aren't supposed to happen but if Thrower and Saskatoon say that there wasn't intent to aim for the head and they will say Leier turned into the check. I say that because as much as I dislike the hit itself that I would be surprised if the NHL Operations department suspends Thrower. I know Portland fans aren't going to like reading this and I don't blame them but if you have a decent sized monitor (mine is a 22 inch) then take the youtube version of this hit, blow it up to full screen then run it using your mouse frame by frame, The hit starts at the :03 second mark and frame by frame slowly you do see Thrower's shoulder not his elbow hitting Leier smack dab in the chin.

Should it be a penalty? Yes by all means these are the kind of hits that hockey needs to remove from the game but the thing is that it is in the follow through that makes the hit look really dirty. The follow through has Thrower's leg leave the ice and his elbow swing out wildly which is where anyone watching in real time would believe that Thrower left his feet and use his elbow to hit Leier. The harsh truth is neither happened and that I suspect is part of why neither Jean-Philippe Sylvain from the QMJHL or Reagan Vetter from the WHL (and both linesmen were also WHL officials) didn't call a penalty on the play.

Much has been made about the hit and now it will be good to see how exactly the folks from the NHL Operations department rule on this play. But this is the kind of play that all 3 CHL leagues need to take out of the game so there is no misunderstanding in the future. The CHL won't be able to say that Leier didn't suffer a concussion during this play. I watched enough Blade games this year to know that Thrower isn't a dirty player but odds are he will get that label no matter how this incident winds up.

Oh yea the game

A scoreless first period gave way to Portland getting on the board first when defensemen Derrick Pouliot scored his 2nd of the Memorial Cup after a bad clearing attempt by the Blades wound up on his stick and Pouliot's shot appeared to be deflected by one of the Blades and went in. The even strength goal gave Portland a 1-0 lead at 6:44. Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) would get the goal back when he faked a pass from the corner then using both a screen and a deflection beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth for a power play goal at 11:20 of the 2nd period.

It was McColgan's 1st goal of the Memorial Cup while fellow Ranger prospect Josh Nicholls (2013 UFA) would earn a secondary assist on the play. The game would go into the 2nd intermission tied at 2-2 and the Blades were able to stay with the current WHL champions.

The 3rd period was a different story as Portland would use their speed and skill to take control of the game starting with Chase De Leo's 2nd goal of the Cup at 4:08 giving Portland a 2-1 lead. Brendan Leipsic would follow with his 1st goal of the Cup at 6:27 to make it 3-1 and Ty Rattie would add his 4th at 10:16 to give Portland a 4-1 lead at 10:16.

Josh Nicholls would score his 4th of the Cup to make it 4-2 but it was too late as Portland earning a 4-2 win heads to Friday's semifinals. Saskatoon has to face the London Knights Thursday night in the tiebreaker game to earn a 2nd shot at Portland.

The Ranger prospects McColgan and Nicholls played a good game against a much more talented Portland team. They did their share to try to help their team win but it didn't happen so Thursday night and they have to turn around and face a team in back to back games. If you have been watching then the team playing the 2nd game of back to back games has lost each time (Halifax and London).

One thing is for sure and a Ranger prospect will be playing the last game of his junior career. The question is which one will it be? Tommy Hughes of London or McColgan and Nicholls of the Blades?

We will find out Thursday night.

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