SASKATOON – His nickname is ‘The Airdrie Assassin’. It’s an appropriate moniker because when it comes to scoring goals Ty Rattie is downright deadly.
“He knows how to put the puck in the net,” said Rattie’s teammate Seth Jones with a smile. “He takes what the defence gives him and he’s a sniper.”
Rattie’s game-winning goal at the 8:32 mark of the third period Friday night essentially killed the London Knights chances of advancing to their second straight MasterCard Memorial Cup final with a 2-1 victory. The Airdrie, Alta., native’s wrist shot from the top of the high slot was a thing of beauty – accurately finding its way through traffic and picking the top corner above Jake Patterson’s blocker to make the water bottle on top of the net dance. It was the goal to send Portland through to the Memorial Cup final for a rematch with the Halifax Mooseheads.
After the game, Rattie said he shot the puck high knowing that Patterson, listed at a generous six feet, is on the smaller side.
“You knew he’s a smaller goalie so you want to get it up and I got it over his shoulder,” said the second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues. “It was one of the bigger goals of my career.”
For Rattie, there have been so many goals that it’s a wonder he’s able to track them all. In the regular season with the Winterhawks he scored 48 goals (110 points) in 62 games and led the playoffs with 20 goals (36 points) in 21 games. At the Memorial Cup, Rattie is leading the tournament in goals with five in four games.
Portland goaltender Mac Carruth has played with Rattie for the past four seasons, so he knows better than anyone how dangerous he can be for opposing goaltenders.
“He’s a big game player,” said Carruth, who made 34 saves in the win. “He’s always in the right position. He sneaks into the little quiet areas and he’s got a great shot.”
Ironically, it was London forward Seth Griffith who might have made the biggest save of the third period when he blocked Rattie from scoring the insurance goal into an empty net with just under two minutes remaining. It allowed London to pressure the Winterhawks right up until the very end.
“My heart was beating a thousand beats a minute,” said Rattie of the game’s final minute. “I was out there doing whatever I could to keep the puck out of the net sliding around everywhere.”
With seconds running down and London looking for the equalizer with an extra attacker, the puck bounced up high in the Portland zone. Rattie managed to extend himself to bat the puck out of harm’s way. It was the kind of play you’d expect from Rattie considering he was also a talented baseball player – good enough to represent Team Alberta -- before deciding to focus on hockey.
“Hopefully the Blue Jays were watching and they caught a glimpse of that, because I’d love a tryout,” said the 20-year-old, who is an ardent Jays fan. “It was exciting and in those kinds of moments you do anything you can for the team.”
Having scored a winning goal with a second left on the clock to win the Ontario Hockey League final, the Knights were used to playing hard to the very end. They lost to the Shawinigan Cataractes in the overtime of last year’s Memorial Cup final and were looking for redemption.
“That’s definitely tough,” said London forward Ryan Rupert. “We definitely had the group of guys to get there, but we were one step too short.”
Sunday’s final sets up another showdown between Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads and Portland’s Seth Jones. In their first meeting, Halifax bested the Winterhawks 7-4 with MacKinnon outshining Jones.
This time, Jones says he’s ready.
“I’m very excited,” said the defenceman of getting a second shot in the final. “It’s going to be an awesome game. I’m looking forward to it to get a little bit of redemption here.”
[Memorial Cup Three Stars: Knights fall to Portland and the Airdrie Assassin]
Halifax and Portland finished 1-2 in the Canadian Hockey League rankings, and many had expected the two teams to meet in the final game of major junior hockey’s 2012-13 season.
“It the top two teams in the CHL going at it in the final,” said Rattie. “This is what we’ve wanted since Day 1 in training camp in August. We’re going to throw it all on the line on Sunday.
“It’s a dream come true, but we have one 60-minute game left.”
Or, maybe more.
More from the 2013 Memorial Cup:
• London Knights leave it on the ice in prologue to bid to win on home ice in 2014
• Saskatoon Blades’ last game fits their season’s theme
• Montreal Canadiens prospect Dalton Thrower out of tournament over headshot