The Halifax Mooseheads re-established their offensive identity Tuesday in round-robin play at the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup with a 9-2 victory against the London Knights at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The triumph comes two days after Halifax suffered a stunning 5-2 loss to the host Saskatoon Blades.
The Mooseheads, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion, now is 18-2 in postseason play.
MEMORIAL CUP SCHEDULE
May 18 - Halifax 7, Portland 4
May 19 - Saskatoon 5, Halifax 2
May 20 - Portland 6, London 3
May 21 - Halifax 9, London 2
May 22, 8 p.m. ET - Saskatoon vs. Portland
May 23, 8 p.m. ET - tiebreaker game
May 24, 8 p.m. ET - semifinal game
May 26, 7 p.m. ET - championship game
Halifax got goals goals from six different players while getting a 26-save performance by goalie Zachary Fucale. Detroit Red Wings prospect Martin Frk had a hat trick, Darcy Ashley scored twice and Stefan Fournier, Brent Andrews, Ryan Falkenham and Luca Ciampini had one goal apiece for the Mooseheads.
Halifax, which finished 2-for-9 on the power play, assured itself of at least a bye into the semifinal game Friday. If the Portland Winterhawks defeat the Blades on Wednesday in round-robin action, the Mooseheads automatically would advance to the title game Sunday.
London will play either Saskatoon or Portland in the tie-breaker game Thursday. All four teams were 1-1 after four games in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
"[Games] like this happen," Knights coach Dale Hunter said. "I've been on bigger playing fields than this and sometimes games like this happen. We have character and leadership in our locker room and we'll watch video. They'll come out and play harder on Thursday."
Halifax racked up 347 goals over the course of a 68-game regular season and scored 90 in 17 playoff matches en route to the QMJHL title. Top 2013 NHL Draft prospects Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon played a big part in that offensive assault, combining for 73 goals and 180 points during the regular season.
Against London Tuesday, Drouin and MacKinnon combined for six assists and a plus-5 rating. Frk, MacKinnon and Drouin were named the game's top three stars, respectively.
"I thought [Frk] was outstanding … he's got all the tools," Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme said. "He's a good skater, strong on the puck and he's got great hands and quite a pro shot already. When Marty plays that way, he's dangerous. When he's playing with [Drouin and [MacKinnon], there's three guys with a lot of skill. When they move and are intense with the puck, they make a lot of things happen."
Fucale's shutout bid ended 16:02 into the second when London's Seth Griffith, a Boston Bruins prospect, scored from the slot, but Halifax had a 7-0 lead at that point. London's Matt Rupert rifled home a shot just 1:18 later, before Frk completed his hat trick on assists from MacKinnon and Drouin at 18:03 for an 8-2 advantage.
Halifax, the No. 1-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League this season, had plenty of motivation leading into its showdown against the No. 3-ranked Knights, and put the game away quickly with a five-goal outburst in the first period.
"We needed to get into this tournament; sometimes that happens in a playoff series," Ducharme said. "Like boxers looking at each other in the opening rounds, sometimes the emotions aren't there. For us, it took two games, but now we're playing playoff hockey in the Memorial Cup.
"We want to take this [momentum] and bring it to next game. We want to strive to be even better. We're not perfect, but close. Our goal is to play the perfect game and the next game could be that game."
Ashley scored a pair of goals, Fournier and Frk each had a goal and an assist, and Andrews also scored in the opening 20 minutes. Hunter gave goalie Jake Patterson, who yielded five goals on 11 shots, his first start of the Memorial Cup. Anthony Stolarz, who had started the previous two games, had allowed five goals on 31 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks on Tuesday before being in favor of Patterson in the third.
Ashley, who finished the regular season with 26 goals, 78 points and plus-44 rating for Halifax, scored his first of the game at 9:36 off a rebound. He then deflected a puck past Patterson from the slot at 12:02 to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Hunter replaced Patterson with Stolarz to begin the second, but it made no difference as Frk scored his second of the game and 14th of the playoffs at 1:45. Drouin had three assists in the game to boost his three-game Memorial Cup total to one goal and four points. Drouin had a team-leading 35 points in 17 QMJHL playoff games.
Drouin's linemate, MacKinnon, had three assists. He has four goals and eight points in three Memorial Cup games after totaling 33 points in 17 QMJHL playoff games.
"Obviously, it's really important to have our top line going," Ducharme said. "When you do the little things right, you get rewarded. [Frk, MacKinnon and Drouin] skated hard and were awarded with opportunities. When you're alive and sharp and on your toes, you get those scoring chances and put them in the net. It's not just luck or only because they have skill -- they all play hard and that's why they're able to get it done."
Hunter wouldn't commit to either Patterson or Stolarz as his starter Thursday.
The game featured six of NHL Central Scouting's top 2013 draft-eligible prospects among North American players -- all of whom might be selected in the first round. For Halifax, there was No. 2-ranked MacKinnon, No. 3 Drouin and No. 1-ranked North American goalie Fucale. London featured No. 15 Bo Horvat, No. 19 Max Domi and No. 22 Nikita Zadorov.
The London offense, which finished second in the Ontario Hockey League with 279 goals in the regular season en route to winning the league title for the second straight season, was held in check. The Knights were 0-for-4 on the power play, and Horvat, Domi and Zadorov finished a combined minus-7.