MacKinnon shines as Moose run roughshod over 'Hawks

Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones blocks a shot by Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax...

Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones blocks a shot by Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads during Memorial Cup round-robin play in Saskatoon, Saturday May 18, 2013. (Al Charest//QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:26 PM ET

Sidney Crosby scored once in his first Memorial Cup game eight years ago in London against the powerhouse host Knights.

Nathan MacKinnon?

He scored three times, all in the second period of a 7-4 Halifax win over the pre-tournament favourite Portland Winterhawks before a crowd of only 8,771 Saturday night at the Credit Union Centre.

The Mooseheads forward outshone Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, the big blueliner touted to go ahead of him in this summer’s NHL draft, and his own linemate Jonathan Drouin, ranked third by NHL Central Scouting, in the much-anticipated battle of the game’s top three future stars.

MacKinnon, a 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., showcased his offensive diversity with his hat trick. He scored on the power play, shorthanded and even-strength as Halifax scored five straight in the second period to turn a 3-1 Portland lead into a two-goal hole for the Western Hockey League champs.

He had four points and was plus-4.

After his historic performance, the Colorado Avalanche might want to have some more discussion about what they should do with that No. 1 overall pick.

Jones and Drouin showed up, too. They both scored, but they just weren’t as dominant as MacKinnon.

The two highest-scoring teams in junior hockey opened the game willing to match their top two lines against each other.

Portland’s Ty Rattie-Nicolas Petan-Brendan Leipsic trio, which combined for 350 points this season, opposed Halifax’s high-octane unit of MacKinnon, Drouin and Martin Frk in the early going.

Late in the first, MacKinnon controlled the puck along the wall and dropped the puck to Frk, the Detroit second-rounder, who squeezed a hard shot through ‘Hawks overage goalie Mac Carruth’s pads for the game’s opening goal.

Jones tied it 55 seconds later by jumping into the rush and beating top goalie prospect Zach Fucale on the glove side. The Winterhawks scored twice in the opening 2:11 of the second, but MacKinnon and the Mooseheads roared back in an explosive seven-goal period.

MacKinnon stood out when he played against Jones. He produced against the ‘Hawks top line.

“They’re reliable,” Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme said of MacKinnon and Drouin. “They play against checking lines. They play against scoring lines. It’s nothing new to them. They’ve faced that since they were 16. They’ve played at the worlds.

“This is a big stage. If I’m a fan, or media and scout, for sure, I want to be here watching those guys playing.”

MacKinnon was ready for his star turn at the Cup. Ducharme never doubted he would rise to the occasion.

“Since Nathan came in at 16, everywhere we played on the road, and even at home because he’s a Halifax kid, there’s excitement,” he said. “They know what it is and they’re just focused on playing their best. If you want to sell yourself, just be the best on the ice.

“If you’re helping the team, be the best on the ice.”

And if you want to prove a point that you deserve to go No. 1 overall, the Memorial Cup is a pretty nice place to start.

Portland coach Travis Green, the ex-Maple Leaf, expected a flurry of chances.

“Two teams that play as close to each other as there is in this tournament,” he said. “Both have a lot of speed, a lot of skill. We’re not a big trapping team. We’re not going to sit back and wait for things to happen. We’re a team that wants the puck and wants to go get the puck.”

They had it plenty, but too many times with MacKinnon on the ice, they spent picking it out of the back of their net.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress


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