Winterhawks have advantage on Oil Kings

Portland holds home-ice edge in rematch series

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



BEAVERTON, Ore. — Revenge would be sweet for the Portland Winterhawks.

But avenging last season’s loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings will not be on the checklist Travis Green prepares for the Winterhawks entering the Western Hockey League championship series that begins on Friday at the Rose Garden.

“Everyone knows that we played them last year. Everyone knows they beat us,” the Winterhawks acting head coach said following Wednesday’s practice. “Is there extra motivation to beat them? Maybe, But you don’t really need a whole lot of motivation this time of year to win a championship.”

A year ago, the Oil Kings had four home games in a series that went the distance and had five one-goal games. Edmonton prevailed on home ice in Game 7. If this series is as close, Portland will have the home-ice edge for a deciding seventh game.

Winterhawks defenseman Derrick Pouliot said his lasting memory from the 2012 finals is “just that awful feeling when we lost there” in Game 7.

For several of the Winterhawks, the sting is two years old. This is Portland’s third consecutive trip to the league finals, but players such as Ty Rattie are still looking for their first championship. In fact, this is the 11th time a Winterhawks team has reached the WHL finals, but Portland has won it all only twice.

“Obviously we don’t want this chance to go by,” Rattie said. “We want to get it done this time, and we feel we can.”

Edmonton is coming off of a Game 7 win over Calgary on Tuesday that propelled the Oil Kings back to the league finals. Edmonton — including Vancouver native Trevor Cheek — was scheduled to fly to Portland on Wednesday.

Most of the Winterhawks, meanwhile, practiced at the Winterhawks Skating Center on Wednesday. Missing were Seth Jones, Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic. The trio were in Calgary to be honored at the WHL awards event.

Jones, who is projected as a top pick in June’s National Hockey League draft, was honored as the WHL rookie of the year. He posted 56 points in 61 regular-season games to lead rookie defensemen, and has added 13 points in 15 playoff games.

“You can’t ask much more from him on the ice,” Rattie said of Jones. “At the same time he’s a really good leader off the ice. He’s easy to get along with.”

Petan and Leipsic, Rattie’s linemates, received the Bob Clarke Trophy as the top scorers in the league. Each finished with 120 points in the regular season, the third time the trophy has been shared and the first time by teammates.

The Winterhawks were also honored with the WHL’s Scholastic Team of the Year Award as team with the highest academic performance during the regular season.


• Cheek status uncertain — Trevor Cheek sat out Game 7 on Tuesday with an undisclosed injury suffered during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Vancouver native played briefly in Game 6 of that series. His status for the finals is uncertain.

• Finals on TV: Every game of the WHL Finals will be televised live in the Portland market, with five games scheduled on Comcast SportsNet, and two on Root Sports.