Mac Carruth has been here before—twice, in fact. The WHL Final, that old hurdle, is as difficult as promised, as the Winterhawks split their first two games against old foes, the Edmonton Oil Kings, over the weekend. Portland, with the league’s best regular-season record and thus home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, stand a better chance than ever before of clinching the Chynoweth Cup, but they are facing stiff competition in the defending league champions, who emerged from the East as worthy opponents after a seven-game series against the Calgary Hitmen.
Edmonton won the only regular-season matchup between the two teams 4-3 on Feb. 27 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and they took Game 1 in front of the Portland fans as well, putting four goals past Carruth on Friday. The Winterhawks tightened up their game the next night, allowing just 16 shots, which were all saved by Carruth. The 3-0 blanking marked his fifth of the 2013 playoffs, tying Edmonton goalie Laurent Brossoit for second-most in a single WHL postseason campaign; both goalies are one shutout away from matching the all-time league record.
Carruth, a 2010 draft pick, ranks second in postseason play with a 1.67 goals-against average in 17 games, and his 71 career playoff games between the pipes are now a WHL record (current Carolina Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward held the previous mark with 65 playoff games with the Red Deer Rebels from 2001-04).
With the series tied 1-1, the action now shifts to Edmonton, where Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday evening.
In Ontario, Alex Broadhurst and the London Knights are knotted up at 1-1 with the Barrie Colts in the OHL Final. Broadhurst scored a power-play goal in Game 1, as the Knights fell 4-2 at home despite outshooting the Colts 44-28. In his first major-junior postseason campaign, Chicago’s seventh-round draft pick in 2011 paces the OHL with five power-play tallies. Broadhurst’s 10 goals overall are also tied for the league lead, and he ranks second on the team with 22 points in 16 games.
London recorded a 4-1 victory in Game 2, and the next two games will shift to Barrie, with Game 3 being played tonight and Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday.
Drew LeBlanc began his first IIHF World Championship tournament with a pair of assists in Team USA's 5-3 win over Austria on Saturday. LeBlanc was held without a point the next night in a 4-1 win over Latvia. The free-agent signing has collected four shots on goal through the first two games. Team USA will face their sternest test of the competition so far when they take on Russia on Tuesday.
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