Winterhawks season ends with Game 7 loss
Originally published May 13, 2012 at 8:08 p.m., updated May 13, 2012 at 9:15 p.m.
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oil Kings left no doubt in Game 7 of the Western Hockey League’s final.
The Oil Kings built an early lead on Sunday and never relinquished it for a 4-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks to win the Western Hockey League’s championship.
Edmonton now advances to the Memorial Cup for the first time in modern franchise history.
“We’re not done yet, we have one more tournament to go to,” said Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal. “We have one celebration tonight then we fly out. Our sixty minutes tonight were outstanding. We got a 4-0 lead in the second and gave up a goal, but our guys shut them down... from there it was a matter of protection.”
Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston gave Edmonton a gracious nod after the game, noting that the Oil Kings’ first goal put his club on its heels.
“I always think in Game 7 whoever scores first gets a bit of a jump. I thought we had the edge coming in, but they scored early,” said Johnston. “The key goal was at the end of the first period, to start the second.
“Game 7 is a real mental thing. You have to overcome adversity and I think we had a hard time fighting through it.”
When Edmonton’s Mark Pysyk was asked about his influence on the team as captain, and lifting the Chynoweth Cup, he couldn’t stop grinning.
“I don’t think it’s sinking in yet,” said Pysyk. “It’s unbelievable. It’s the first time anything like that’s happened other than in my basement.”
Rhett Rachinski, Tyler Maxwell, Michael St. Croix and T.J. Foster had the goals for Edmonton, who advance to the Canadian junior hockey championship tournament, which will played May 18-27 in Shawinigan, Que.
Oliver Gabriel scored Portland’s only goal of the game, putting a small dent in the Oil Kings’ 4-0 lead. The loss was just the second game of the series that was separated by more than one goal.
There have now been 10 finals in WHL history that have gone to Game 7 and the road team has never won.
Rachinski opened up the scoring just 1:51 into the first period on a broken play. Jordan Peddle’s shot deflected off a defender right onto Rachinski’s stick, who had an open net for the backhand.
Portland netminder Mac Carruth kept the Winterhawks in the game halfway through the first with a glove save against Foster on a two-on-one, getting just enough of it to deflect into the stands as he sprawled in the crease.
Maxwell made it 2-0 for the Oil Kings on a transition play from center ice, taking a feed from Kristians Pelss and burying it glove side on netminder Carruth in the dying seconds of the first.
Early in the second, St. Croix added to Edmonton’s lead.
Foster then put the game out of reach with the Oil Kings’ fourth goal, and his third of the playoffs, on transition offense with Peddle. Foster put a wrist shot up high to the corner with a sniper halfway through the second.
Gabriel’s goal came moments later, splitting the defense and picking the corner behind Edmonton’s Laurent Broissoit.
“My confidence is sky-high right now,” said Broissoit. “I couldn’t be any higher. I’m going to have to use that to the best of my ability in Shawinigan and give it to them.”
Broissoit finished the game with 19 saves, only facing four shots in the third period, while Carruth stopped 28 shots.
Portland’s 20 shots on goal were a season low.