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If the Halifax Mooseheads are to capture the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup, they may want to consider sending a couple gifts to Portland, Oregon....
The Winterhawks wrapped up the round-robin portion of the tournament with a 4-2 win against the host Saskatoon Blades. Portland and Halifax finished the preliminary round with identical 2-1 records, but the Mooseheads earned the bye into the final by virtue of beating Portland Saturday. The WHL champions advance to the semi-final where they will play the winner of a tiebreaker game between Saskatoon and London.
Much of the discussion after the game centered around a first period hit by Saskatoon's Dalton Thrower on Taylor Leier of Portland. Leier laid motionless on the ice for a short period of time, before being helped off - looking very wobbly. He did not return to the game and his status for the rest of the tournament is in question.
"We were told before the tournament there are no hits to the head, they're keying in on that," said Portland forward Ty Rattie. "(Thrower) hit (Leier's) head, I don't know where he hit his head but he hit his head, it's a missed call, we won the game and we move on from there."
The Canadian Hockey League announced after the game that the hit is being reviewed. The NHL Hockey Operations Department is handling discipline at the Memorial Cup. As expected, both coaches had different views of the hit, and whether it was a head shot.
"It looked like the Leier boy was cutting to the middle and Dalton hit him in the chest area and down he went. It's an unfortunate situation because he's a quality player and a quality young man and it's an unfortunate situation he went down the way he did," said Blades coach Lorne Molleken.
"It was pretty obvious where the shot comes, it hits him in the head, and there is a jump to it as well. The video is pretty obvious," responded Winterhawks Coach Travis Green. "All I know is we lost one of our better players to a hit that I thought should have been a major."
A decision on Thrower's status is expected by noon local time Thursday.
After a scoreless first period Derrick Pouliot opened the scoring for Portland with a shot that squeaked through Blades goaltender Andrey Makarov. It took almost five minutes of play before Shane McColgan tied it up for the Blades, with a similar type of shot - that went off a Portland defender and behind Winterhawks starter Mac Carruth. Saskatoon killed off a high sticking double-minor to Michael Ferland to end the second period tied at one goal apiece.
But the Blades were not able to capitalize on any momentum after the penalty kill and instead Portland scored three straight goals. Chase De Leo, Brendan Leipsic and Rattie gave the WHL champions a three-goal lead. Josh Nicholls responded late in the third period but the Blades could not mount a further comeback.
-Wednesday's announced attendance was 9,239 at Credit Union Centre. This was the second-highest attended game of the tournament, behind the announced 10,203 for the opening game. The average attendance for the round-robin was 8,993 per game.
-Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster attended Wednsday's game, joining other Flames staff that has appeared at the tournament. Calgary currently has three first-round picks for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
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