Horvat's skill not lost on MacKinnon

Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon (#22) battles against Chris Tierney of the London...

Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon (#22) battles against Chris Tierney of the London Knights, while skaating up the ice, during the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Tuesday May 21, 2013. Al Charest/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:28 PM ET

Max Domi didn’t know many people at last year’s Memorial Cup in Shawinigan.

He was a rookie with the London Knights, who lost the final in overtime to the host Cataractes.

This week in Saskatoon, it’s much different.

It’s like old home week for Domi. Five of his teammates with Canada at last summer’s Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament are here.

On Tuesday night, his OHL champion team met the star who scored a hat trick in that gold-medal win over Finland — Halifax Mooseheads standout Nathan MacKinnon.

“Getting to play against guys you grew up playing against and hearing about is great,” Domi said. “Nate, since he’s been 12-years-old, I’ve heard his name. It’s unbelievable how good they (he and linemate Jonathan Drouin are) at hockey, and even better off the ice. To get to know them better and get a chance to play them on a stage like this one last time, it’s pretty cool.”

The front steps to the Credit Union Centre are adorned with an action photo of Domi. MacKinnon, at this Cup, is completing the last junior steps in his preparation to a pro career.

“He’s an amazing player,” Portland’s go-to guy Ty Rattie said. “He doesn’t have a weakness and so quick, so dynamic. He’s going to be a great player in the NHL for a lot of years. He did a number against our team and he’s going to do a number against a lot of teams in the future.”

Domi has been watching MacKinnon closely this week. MacKinnon is keeping tabs on Domi, who has delivered a bone-rattling hit on Saskatoon’s Shane McColgan and set up a Bo Horvat goal with a between-the-legs pass for the ages.

“That move was pretty special,” said MacKinnon, a 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S. “Both of those guys have been playing really well, I thought. Bo’s been playing a really good two-way game and good on faceoffs and the penalty kill and power play. Max brings speed and skill. They have a good combo and definitely fun to watch but at the same time, hopefully not too much fun to watch (against Halifax).”

London head coach Dale Hunter has matched Horvat against many of the best centres in junior hockey this season. He has already faced Vincent Trocheck in Plymouth, Mark Scheifele of Barrie and Portland’s 350-point line on Monday night.

MacKinnon was next on the list.

“I played with Bo at the U-18s and I played against him growing up in spring hockey,” MacKinnon said. “He’s always been a good two-way player, even as a kid, and good on draws, and hopefully, I can be good, as well.”

Beating the Knights’ trap, sending them to the tiebreaker game and giving the Moose a chance to go straight to the final has been a major goal for junior hockey’s biggest name.

“I’ve watched (the Knights) on Sportsnet throughout the whole year and I can tell you they play a pro game with Dale behind the bench,” MacKinnon said. “They really get on guys quick and they’re on the forecheck hard.”

The Knights have turned to Jake Patterson again to help save their season.

He won the last three games of the OHL final and was poised to start London’s first Cup game before suffering from the flu.

Portland’s Mac Carruth had a bounce-back game against London and Knights starter Anthony Stolarz was yanked after five goals. The OHL champs have the biggest goaltending question mark here right now.

“We have confidence in both guys,” forward Chris Tierney said. “Patty, we know what he did the last three games of the OHL final and I think he has a lot of confidence.”

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress

 


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