LONDON -- All the pre-game hype centred around how the Ottawa 67's were going to pound the world's best junior hockey player into submission in their Memorial Cup semifinal match with the Rimouski Oceanic.
However, as most of Sidney Crosby's opponents have discovered, it's tough to hit what you can't catch.
On Saturday Crosby again hoisted his Rimouski teammates on his precocious 17-year-old shoulders, scoring three times and skillfully weaving his way through a frustrated group of 67's assailants to lead the Oceanic to a 7-4 victory and a berth in his first Memorial Cup final.
"He knew the 67's were going to play him hard today, but he was focussed on winning. They could do what they want, but he's going to win," exclaimed Oceanic head coach Doris Labonte, who warned that we have yet to see Crosby at his best. "He can do more. He was very good today, but I've seen him better during the season and tomorrow it's going to be his best performance of the season."
For his efforts Crosby was rewarded with a rematch against the powerhouse London Knights in Sunday's final (4:30 ET). It's the marquee matchup everyone wanted to see when the tournament began 10 days ago: the best player in the Canadian Hockey League vs. it's best team.
Round one went to the Knights, who defeated the Oceanic 4-3 in overtime in the tournament opener. In that contest Crosby had a goal and an assist in the first 10 minutes, but virtually disappeared under the Knights' smothering defence over the final 50.
"I'm looking forward to playing against them," said Knights defenceman Marc Method, who scored the gamewinner that night. "I think it will be a great show for the fans too and that's the main thing too when it comes down to it."
Prior to the Ottawa game, Crosby said it was important for Rimouski to score first and he was good on his word, circling the 67's net and snapping the first shot of the game past a screened Danny Battochio at 1:48 of the first.
Four minutes later, Patrick Coulombe's floater from the point put the Oceanic up 2-0.
That goal seemed to rankle the 67's, who rallied to tie the game at 2-2 with a pair of scores from Jamie McGinn in a 97-second span.
Crosby then went to work again, as his perfect cross-crease pass was converted by Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who actually shot wide but had it deflect in off the back of Battochio's left leg.
"I don't think many players can make that pass," admitted Pouliot, who had three points on the night. "(Our line) has made a lot of points this tournament, but we just wanted to play our game."
Crosby re-established a two-goal bulge when he somehow managed to elude the 67's defence in front of the net and snapped home Dany Roussin's goal-mouth pass, just 41 seconds into the second period.
The goal drew the ire of 67's head coach Brian Kilrea, who was angered by the elbowing call that led to Crosby's second goal, especially when he felt an Oceanic player should have been booked for knocking one of his players to the ice twice on the same play.
Kilrea stared down QMJHL referee Richard Forest as he slowly left the ice at the end of the second. Kilrea's tantrum drew the veteran junior coach a bench-minor penalty to start the third.
"If our guy gets knocked down twice behind the play, is that not an interference penalty?," queried Kilrea, who also lampooned Labonte's complaint that his team didn't have enough time to rest ahead of Sunday's final. "If you want to go home, I'll take the short rest."
The 67's drew within one on Derek Joslin's power-play goal just over two minutes into the third, but that's when things really went off the rails for Ottawa. Defenceman Brad Bonello drew an iffy high-sticking penalty and Coulombe potted his second of the match, 25 seconds later on the ensuing power play.
"There's no sense naming names," confessed Kilrea. "We didn't start well, we didn't do anything well."
Mario Scalzo Jr. followed that up three minutes later on another great individual effort by Crosby, who fought off two defenders to one-hand the puck to Roussin, who dished it off to Scalzo Jr.
Crosby then completed his hat trick and five-point night when he curved his wrister from just outside the blue line, a la David Beckham, past the outstretched glove of Battochio.
The Crosby-Pouliot-Roussin line had it's biggest game of the tournament, collecting 12 points and now have a combined 29 points in just four games.
"You can't just focus on Crosby when everyone's telling you you've got to contain Crosby, because you have two other guys on that line who can put up the points and that's what's scary about it," said 67's forward Arron Alphonso, who admitted the 67's never played their game at the tournament. "We didn't play all three periods, which has been the story of our season."
The Oceanic return to the Memorial Cup final for the first time since 2000, when current Tampa Bay Lightning star Brad Richards led them to a championship in Halifax.