EDMONTON — The Portland Winterhawks earned some redemption in the Western Hockey League final.
After reaching the final three years in a row, the Winterhawks finally won the Ed Chynoweth Cup with a 5-1 victory over the defending champion Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 6 on Sunday. Last season the Winterhawks lost out to the Oil Kings in a 4-3 series decision, and the year previous to the Kootenay Ice by a 4-1 margin.
“To win a championship, never mind getting here two times before and losing, it’s very special,” said Portland head coach Travis Green. “We had a real determined group this year. We had a real mature group this year for such a young team. You learn a lot when you get here twice and lose. I think we did a lot of learning and our group was real even-keeled this year.”
Ty Rattie’s hat trick, which included a pair of short-handed goals, led Portland, with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Taylor Leier adding singles.
“(Rattie’s) a special player and we really needed a big game out of Ty tonight,” added Green. “You get to this point in the season your best players have to be your best players to win.”
Travis Ewanyk had the lone goal for Edmonton.
“It’s a tough way to go out but we’re very proud of the group of kids in there,” said Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal. “The kids were focused today to start the game, we earned some scoring chances. Without the short-handed goals it could be a different game. Portland really shut down our power play in the series… I wouldn’t say it was the difference, but it definitely didn’t help. It’s tough to get back to the finals after winning it. I appreciate what this team did and I’m very proud of them. ”
Ewanyk was credited with opening up the scoring just 1:04 into the contest, but it was a potentially disastrous own goal off Winterhawk defender Derrick Pouliot. Mac Carruth made the initial left pad save off Ewanyk’s wrister, but as Pouliot picked up the rebound the puck drifted off his stick at the side of the net and straight into goal.
But Portland’s penalty kill made up for it with two straight short-handed goals on the same double minor to Chase De Leo for high sticking.
Nicolas Petan forced the turnover at 4:28 off Edmonton defender Martin Gernat, then fed it out in front to a waiting Rattie who tied the game at one apiece. Then at 7:15, Rattie burst into the zone and around the net to finish a short-handed wraparound, giving Portland the 2-1 edge.
“Those are two of my favourite goals of my career,” smiled Rattie. “My dad told me before the game that big players come out in big games and I wanted to step up for my team.”
“This team came back from losses every night and we pulled through tonight, I couldn’t be happier for the boys. It’s beyond special, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s the time of my life and my junior career with these guys. This year to finish it off, it’s something I’m never going to forget. ”
Bjorkstrand doubled the Portland lead at 3:54 of the second, his wrist shot from the right wing just squeaking under the glove arm of Edmonton netminder Laurent Brossoit.
Curtis Lazar had Edmonton’s best chance of the second to pull back within one, streaking in alone halfway through the period but defied by the well-timed poke check of Carruth. After the save, the Edmonton bench seemed to start deflating.
“Our core group of guys here for the past two years… it’s tough knowing half our team is going to be moving on next year,” said Lazar. “We really thought it was our year and we left it out on the ice. You could look at it a lot of ways, bounces… that could’ve changed the series. But it is what it is. We were reluctant to shoot the puck, and you look at our intensity… they get those two shorties and it really sunk us. But Portland’s a heck of a team, good luck to them (in the Memorial Cup).”
Rattie finished off the hat trick with his 20th of the playoffs at 13:25. Petan corralled a bouncing puck in the Edmonton zone and whipped it across to Rattie for the wide-open net.
With the goal, Rattie goes down in the record books tied for fourth all-time in goals over a single season’s WHL playoffs, alongside Dan Spring of the 1971 Oil Kings and Doug Morrison of the 1979 Lethbridge Broncos. Petan had assists on all three of Rattie’s goals.
Rattie had an opportunity in the third to add to his totals on a breakaway with four minutes to go, but was denied by Brossoit before the empty-net goal by Leier finished it off.
Carruth stopped 25 shots in net for Portland in his third straight appearance in the finals. Brossoit turned aside 20 shots for the Oil Kings.