In Game Six of the WHL Finals, the Winterhawks beat the Edmonton Oil Kings to force a Game Seven. They had gotten this far the year before, against the Kootenay Ice. They did not want to leave without the cup again.
In Game Seven, the Oil Kings had other plans and for the second year in a row, the Portland Winterhawks are Western Conference Champions, but will return home without the Ed Chynoweth Memorial Cup.
The Oil Kings beat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1 in Game Seven, winning the series four games to three. It is the first championship in the five year history of the modern Oil Kings.
Turnovers played havoc for the Hawks all game long, starting in the first when Derrick Pouliot’s pass was stolen by TJ Foster, who fed Rhett Rachinski in front of the net. Mac Carruth stopped the first shot, but Rachinski scored on the rebound for a 1-0 lead. With less than a minute left in the period, Michael St. Croix stole the puck at the Portland blue line, and Tyler Maxwell finished from there to extend the lead.
The woes continued for the Hawks into the second, when Keegan Lowe poked the puck away from Brendan Leipsic. Kristians Pelss gained control of it, and fed St. Croix who gave the Oil Kings a 3-0 lead. The Hawks tried to mount an offensive, but Foster stole the puck from Marcel Noebels, and won a race down the ice, scoring on a two-on-one for a 4-0 advantage.
The Hawks finally got on the board when Oliver Gabriel split two defenders on a break to make it 4-1, but they would not get any closer. The Oil Kings locked down the third period, holding the Hawks to just four shots. Overall, Portland was held to just 20 shots, their lowest shot total of the finals. Laurent Brossoit saved 19 of them for the win. Carruth stopped 28 of 32 shots, but was let down by a defense that committed costly turnovers, and an offense that could not keep the puck in the Edmonton zone.
While the Oil Kings move on the represent the WHL in the Memorial Cup, the Winterhawks have an off-season of questions to address. Gabriel, Cam Reid, and William Wrenn are all moving on, and Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi are expected to move to the AHL. The recent acquisition of forward Seth Jones from the Everett Silvertips, a player considered by many scouts to be the number one pick in next year’s NHL draft, should bring scoring help. Chase De Leo and Nic Petan will also be counted on for additional scoring, especially if Brad Ross leaves as well.
It was a wonderful season for the Portland Winterhawks, and the veterans that remain on the team will be focused to make sure the third time is a charm.