PORTLAND — Travis Green’s preparation for Sunday’s Game 6 of the Western Hockey League championship series included a chat with forward Ty Rattie.
“I didn’t think he was great in the (Friday) home game,” Green, the acting Portland Winterhawks coach, said. “And one thing about Ty is he’s real honest in his game. He knows when he is on his game and he knows when he’s not on his game.
“I just told Ty: ‘Tonight we need a World Junior performance.’ And he gave us the performance we needed. That’s what your great players do. Ty knew that he needed to bring it. And he performed and he delivered.”
Did he ever.
The 19-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect scored three goals Sunday to power Portland to a 5-1 championship-clinching win at Edmonton, its first league title in 15 seasons and third in 37 seasons in the Western Hockey League.
Rattie’s first two goals were game-changers, short-handed strikes that came on the same four-minute Edmonton power play.
That sequence came after Edmonton scored on a fluke play one minute into the game, the puck dribbling into the goal off of Portland defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
“It just went a little too hard off my skate and I couldn’t get it off my stick and it’s just in the net,” Pouliot explained. “An unlucky bounce. I couldn’t believe it.”
On Mother’s Day of 2012, Edmonton scored early in Game 7 at home and carried that momentum to a championship clinching 4-1 win over Portland in Game 7.
“I had a little bit of a flashback, to be honest,” Green said. “But our group has never (panicked). They don’t get high and don’t get low.”
Another bit of misfortune came two minutes later, when Chase De Leo was penalized four minutes for high sticking.
Two power-play goals for Edmonton would have put the Oil Kings in strong position to force a seventh game in Portland on Monday.
Instead, Rattie and Nic Petan went to work.
First, Petan pressured Edmonton defenseman Martin Gernat into a turnover and fed Rattie for a goal that tied the game and made Rattie the league’s all-time career leader for playoff goals.
Moments later, Petan assisted on the second goal, when Rattie raced around the goal and stuffed the puck inside an open post.
It was an appropriate turn of events in a series dominated by Portland’s penalty kill. Edmonton was scoreless on the power play in the series.
The Oil Kings certainly missed Vancouver resident Trevor Cheek, who had eight goals and eight assists in the playoffs before an injury in the Eastern Conference finals sidelined Cheek for all six games of the finals.
“I can’t say enough about Ty Rattie,” Winterhawks assistant coach Kyle Gustafson said. “His game elevated. He’s a World Junior player. He’s a big game player. For him to get one short-handed goal, let alone two, was unbelievable.
“As soon as he got that second one, the feeling was, ‘OK, he put his team on his back.’ “
Not that the Winterhawks, losers in the 2011 and 2012 WHL championship series, were ready to celebrate. Even leading 4-1 entering the final period, there were no early smiles on the Portland bench.
“Nothing’s safe until the final buzzer, and that’s the way we played,” Gustafson said. “It was definitely businesslike. And the way we approached the third period is no different in Game 6 than in Game 1.
“We wanted to make sure we gave everything. We wanted to make sure we pressured their (defensemen) just as much as we would at the start of the series, and that’s what we did.”