Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first upset at the 2013 edition of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The Saskatoon Blades, who hadn't won a hockey game since March, were able to finally get in the 'W' column against the QMJHL champions on Sunday night, improving their record to 1-1 and deftly defeating the squad that knocked off powerhouse Portland 7-4 a night before.
Nathan MacKinnon, the star attraction of the tournament, was still very, very good, but was shut down by Andrey Makarov in the first half of the game and the Blades' offence went to work. The Blades got four timely goals, and Makarov held off a late rally from the Mooseheads as his team held on for a 5-2 win, with an empty-net goal as time expired.
No. 1 Star - Matej Stransky, Saskatoon Blades
How do you spell "REDEMPTION"? "M-A-T-T-E..." no, wait... "M-A-T-J"... Hang on... Either way, the Dallas Stars prospect was held pointless through Saskatoon's four-game sweep in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs and looked invisible for the Blades in their opener against London.
Stransky opened the scoring for the Blades in the first period, knocking a puck in front past Fucale. The play of the game came at the tail end of a contested offensive zone penalty by Stransky. Coming out of the box, he found another gear to come in alone on Fucale and sniped a goal top cheddar. While that goal gave the Blades a 2-0 lead, a late rally by the Mooseheads meant that it unfortunately didn't hold up as the winner. Too bad, since Stransky was the best player on the ice for either team and noticeably the difference offensively for the Blades between Friday's loss and Sunday's win.
No. 2 Star - Darren Dietz, Saskatoon Blades
One of the ways that MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin beat the Portland Winterhawks was that the Mooseheads top unit turned around in transition effectively and taking advantage of a mobile defence that was just a step slower. Lorne Molleken plays a slower game than Travis Green, meaning that guys like Dietz, Duncan Siemens and Dalton Thrower would be counted on to shut down rushes from that top line when they started.
For the most part they did. While MacKinnon got a lot of chances on the powerplay, he was fairly quiet 5-on-5 and didn't have an awful lot of room in the neutral zone to work his magic. It's fair to give credit to the most important member of the Blades defence—one who also scored a big 4-0 goal that all but sealed it for the Blades.
No. 3 Star - Lukas Sutter, Saskatoon Blades
After going down with an upper body injury in the first, Lukas Sutter returned to become a part of Saskatoon's strongest unit with Collin Valcourt and Nathan Burns. They all clicked on the 3-0 goal for the Blades at the start of the third period, on a play largely set up by Sutter.
They don't track shots on goal in the WHL, but Sutter was probably second to just MacKinnon and Stransky in this one. A very strong two-way game from the Winnipeg Jets prospect.
Game Grade: There was a lot of continuous action in this game, despite the restrictive system of Lorne Molleken's Saskatoon Blades. Halifax's offence buzzed in the third and made it interesting, but the offence from both teams was really lacking through two. C+.
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