Matej Stransky scored twice and Andrey Makarov made 29 saves Sunday as the MasterCard Memorial Cup host Saskatoon Blades picked up their first victory in more than two months by beating the Halifax Mooseheads 5-2.
Collin Valcourt, Darren Dietz and Josh Nicholls, into an empty net, had the other goals for Saskatoon (1-1), which dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision to the London Knights in Friday’s tournament opener, but held on against the Canadian Hockey League’s No. 1 ranked team.
Stephen MacAuley and Nathan MacKinnon replied for Halifax (1-1), which lost just six games during the regular season and once in the playoffs while cruising to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title. Zachary Fucale made 26 stops in defeat.
With the Mooseheads down 1-0 and pressing for the tie late in the second period, Stransky collected a loose puck after coming out of the penalty box. The Dallas Stars prospect moved in alone on Fucale and roofed a shot under the crossbar with 1:15 left to help send Saskatoon, which was swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs and hadn’t played in 51 days prior to the game against London, to its first win since a 3-2 shootout decision over the Edmonton Oil Kings on March 12.
Halifax, which was playing its second game in as many night’s after Saturday’s emphatic 7-4 victory over the Portland Winterhawks, was thwarted time and again by Makarov in the second game of the round-robin tournament for both clubs to decide the CHL champion.
The Russian netminder, who is property the Buffalo Sabres, stopped MacKinnon early in the second off the rush and made a big save off Halifax’s Stefan Fournier eight minutes into the period.
Martin Frk then put a rebound over Makarov’s net moments later before Fournier hit the post. Makarov got a lot of help from his teammates, who blocked numerous shots with reckless abandon, especially on the power play prior Stransky’s second goal.
Valcourt made it 3-0 just 1:43 into the third, banging a puck home off a scramble in front of Fucale before Dietz scored another one from in tight on the power play just 57 seconds later.
MacAuley got Halifax on the board by ripping a shot past Makarov at 6:48 before MacKinnon added his fourth of the tournament at 8:19. The Mooseheads pressed for more, but couldn’t find another way past the Saskatoon goalie before Nicholls iced it with two seconds to go.
The Blades led 1-0 after an exciting first period that featured five combined power plays, good chances at both ends and a couple of hard hits.
Saskatoon opened the scoring at 12:11 when Stransky jammed a loose puck past Fucale after the Mooseheads goalie failed to control a rebound in his crease.
Halifax had a great chance to even the score late in the period, but MacKinnon saw his shot from the side of the net hit the post.
Notes: Attendance at the Credit Union Centre was 8,934. ... Portland (0-1) meets London (1-0) in Monday’s game. Next up for Halifax is a date with the Knights on Tuesday, while Saskatoon wraps up the round-robin portion of the tournament on Wednesday against the Winterhawks. If necessary, a tiebreaker would be played Thursday. The semi final between the second- and third-place teams goes Friday, with the first-place club getting a bye directly into Sunday’s final. ... The Memorial Cup was first awarded in 1919 in honour of the soldiers killed in the First World War. It now recognizes Canadian soldiers killed in any conflict after being rededicated in 2010.