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Winterhawks claim WHL title

MVP Ty Rattie's hat trick propels Portland to 5-1 road win in Game 6 at Edmonton


EDMONTON — The Western Hockey League championship was decided in the same building as last year, except the Portland Winterhawks were the ones celebrating Sunday afternoon.

Led by Ty Rattie and his three goals — two shorthanded in the pivotal first-period stretch — the Winterhawks beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 5-1 at a subdued and partly empty (announced crowd of 7,449) Rexall Place, where the Oil Kings had defeated the Hawks last year in Game 7 for the WHL title.

Portland won the series 4-2 and advances to the Memorial Cup tournament in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, May 17 to 26, along with Quebec champ Halifax, the Ontario champ (either Barrie or London) and host team Saskatoon.

Rattie's three goals gave him a WHL-playoff record 50 for his career, and the first two turned the course of Game 6 in the first period.

"My dad told me before the game that big-time players step up in big-time games," said Rattie, a St. Louis Blues prospect from Airdrie, Alberta.

Rattie was named MVP, which goes to the outstanding player in all four rounds of the WHL playoffs.

"This feeling isn't going to go away for a long time," Rattie said. "We knew we had the team to be here. We just had to finish the job."

Edmonton took a 1-0 lead on a fluke play, as Portland's Derrick Pouliot mishandled the puck near goalie Mac Carruth, and the puck bounced into the net. Travis Ewanyk was credited with the goal at 1:04.

The Oil Kings' good start continued when Chase De Leo got called for a double-minor high-stick penalty at 3:18, as Edmonton's Henrik Samuelsson drew blood on the hit.

But the Oil Kings continued to struggle mightily, mishandling the puck and not pressuring Carruth — and Rattie flew around during the double-minor, netting two shorthanded goals as Portland took control.

Martin Gernat had a turnover in back of the Edmonton goalie Laurent Brossoit's net, and Nicolas Petan took possession and fed Rattie in front for the 19-year-old winger's 48th career playoff goal at 4:28, breaking the WHL playoff record he held with Medicine Hat's Mark Pederson (1983-88).

Rattie later hit a post after taking a pass from a rushing Seth Jones.

Then Rattie took another pass from Petan as Brossoit tried to close, and Rattie scored on a wraparound at 7:15 for Portland's 2-1 lead.

The Winterhawks weren't done.

In the second period, Mitch Moroz got whistled for a penalty, but the Oil Kings withstood Portland's power play. But the Hawks kept up their pressure, and Oliver Bjorkstrand wristed a shot past Brossoit — a soft goal that trickled in behind the goalie. It was 3-1 Portland.

Rattie achieved the hat trick with his 20th playoff goal and 50th career playoff goal when he took another pass from Petan from the back wall and beat Brossoit.

The third period was all about Portland playing defensively to close out the game. The Oil Kings entered the period having gone eight games without a power-play goal — an 0-for-33 stretch. The Hawks proved to be the better team.

Taylor Leier scored the final goal, hitting the empty Edmonton net with 39 seconds remaining.

Portland, which moved to 3-8 in WHL finals after its third consecutive appearance, will be playing in its fifth Memorial Cup tournament, and going for its fifth Cup title — winning in 1983 as hosts and 1998 at Spokane.

It was sweet redemption for the Winterhawks, who have played without suspended coach/general manager Mike Johnston since November, part of the extensive penalties levied against the organization by the WHL for what the league deemed excessive player benefits.

Captain and defenseman Troy Rutkowski said the Hawks played good team defense most of the series.

"Yeah, with Mac (Carruth) in games 2, 3 4 and tonight. Everybody backchecking," Rutkowski said. "We had a game plan and stuck to it, and we were rewarded."

Carruth finished with 26 saves in Game 6, and he also called it team effort.

"A lot of chemistry," Carruth said.

The Winterhawks' celebration came after years of rebuilding and restructuring since Calgary businessman Bill Gallacher bought the franchise 4 1/2 years ago and began its rise from the bottom of the league.

"It's hard to define," said Portland center Taylor Peters, whose first year with the club netted only 16 wins. "This is the most exciting time of my life so far. These guys battled so hard. It's amazing.

"We had the (finals) experience from the last two years, and we really wanted to win this one. We left nothing to chance."

The penalties from the league office fueled the Winterhawk players, who culminated their outstanding season under acting coach/general manager Travis Green with the Ed Chynoweth Cup, handed to them by WHL commissioner Ron Robison.

"I''m really proud of this group proud of our whole staff. My heart goes out to a guy who's waiting at home for us. We owe a lot to Mike," Green said, referring to Johnston.

"We have a real special group. They stay with their game," Green said. "It was a great series. We had to play well to beat Edmonton, and we did."