May 12, 2013
Courtesy Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON – After Ty Rattie’s hat trick led the way to a 5-1 win, after Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison handed Rattie the Ed Chynoweth Cup, and after all of the Portland Winterhawks took turns hoisting the trophy with their censor-riffic cheers echoing through an emptying Rexall Place, the torch was officially passed.
The Winterhawks wrapped up the WHL final in six games over the Edmonton Oil Kings on Sunday. They gathered at centre ice, piled over top of one another on the Oil Kings’ logo and posed for a team photo, physically pushing the past aside and assuming their spot as kings of the league.
Rattie, the most valuable player of the playoffs, scored career post-season goals 48 through 50, setting a WHL record and carrying the Winterhawks to their first league championship since 1998.
“He’s a special player and we needed a big game out of Ty,” Winterhawks acting head coach and general manager Travis Green said after the team photo. “You get to this point in the season and you need your best players to be your best players to win and he was.”
Trailing 1-0 after Travis Ewanyk’s wide shot was mishandled by Portland defenceman Derrick Pouliot for an own-goal, Rattie turned the tables with a pair of crushing short-handed goals during Chase De Leo’s double-minor penalties for high sticking.
Edmonton was never able to recover.
Oliver Bjorkstrand snuck a wrist shot from the wing past Laurent Brossoit (19 saves) at 3:54 of the second period and Rattie got his hat trick on a wise cut to the net with a backhand finish at 13:25 to make it 4-1. Taylor Leier’s empty-net goal at 19:21 of the third period wrapped up a game that felt over after Rattie’s third goal.
Mac Carruth made 26 saves in net for Portland, limiting the Oil Kings to a goal or less in all four of Edmonton’s losses.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better,” said Ewanyk, who was credited with the Oil Kings’ goal. “We got a good bounce there on that first one and we get that four-minute power play and I think it’s safe to say that was the game-changer.”
The Oil Kings drew only 7,449 fans to Rexall Place for the conclusion of an exciting, emotionally charged series after keeping their season alive with a 3-2 overtime win on Friday at Portland.
“We battled hard,” Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar said. “You look at these guys in the dressing room and it’s been our core group of guys for the past two years and it’s tough knowing that half of our team is going to be moving on next year.
“We did a really good job of representing our organization.”
The Oil Kings went into the series without their captain, Griffin Reinhart, and veteran forward Trevor Cheek, who were both injured in the third-round playoff battle with the Calgary Hitmen.
Still, the team with nine players signed to NHL contracts stole Game 1 at Portland before falling behind 3-1 in the series to a Winterhawks team that flew under the wings of Rattie and linemates Brendan Leipsic and Nicolas Petan. The trio combined for 350 regular-season points and had 88 points in 21 playoff games.
Portland’s defence, led by likely first-overall NHL pick Seth Jones, vacuumed pucks away from Edmonton the whole series.
“Our kids laid it on the line,” Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said. “They had a great year. We asked a lot out of them and we demanded a lot out of them.
“For the 20-year-olds — (Dylan) Wruck, (T.J.) Foster and Cheek — they’re moving on to bigger and better things. Some of the 19-year-old kids are going to move on to pro next year, so it’s a tough way to go out, but they’ll have great memories here.
“We’re very proud of that group of kids. Obviously, to make it to the finals two years in a row is very special. Starting (Monday), we’re trying to get back here again next year.”
The Winterhawks finally got their hands on the Cup after coming up short in the final the previous two seasons. They lost to Edmonton in seven games last year and fell in five to the Kootenay Ice in 2011.
The win is doubly sweet for Portland after it was severely sanctioned in November 2012 for player-benefit violations. The team lost its first five rounds’ worth of selections in this year’s WHL bantam draft and can’t make a first-round pick until 2018. The Winterhawks were fined $200,000 and lost its head coach and GM, Mike Johnston, for the duration of this season. Johnston won’t be able to go to the Memorial Cup at Saskatoon with his team next week.
“It means a lot, it’s been a tough year,” Green said. “We’ve got a guy in Portland right now that we dearly miss. I give Mike a lot of credit, he’s instilled a lot of things in these young men and I give the team credit for being able to carry on and not miss a beat.”
On Twitter: olearychris