Monday, May 14, 2012

Kings Take WHL Crown

The Edmonton Oil Kings saved their best game for last as they topped the Portland Winterhawks 4-1 on their way to capturing their first WHL championship in modern history.

Led by their veterans and leadership group, the Oil Kings controlled play almost from start to finish as they defeated the Winterhawks in a thrilling conclusion to the epic 7-game series in front of a record playoff crowd at Rexall Place. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
 Edmonton needed a quick start to game 7 as Portland has managed to dictate much of the pace of the first six games. The home side struck first and early when 20-year-old Rhett Rachinski had a series of shots in tight on Portland netminder Mac Carruth (CHI) and finally beat the netminder on his fourth effort. 

The Oil Kings were impressive in the first 15 minutes of play but then the Winterhawks started to chip away and looked poised to strike before the end of the period. The a turnover at the Portland blueline was grabbed by Michael st. Croix who dished it to Kristians Pelss who then slid it across to Tyler Maxwell. The Californian had struggled to produce in the final but made no mistake as he rifled a wrist shot past Carruth with 17 seconds left on the clock. 

The momentum carried through to the second period where Edmonton would score less then five minute in. Pelss executed a terrific pass to St. Croix in front of the net and the Winnipeg native redirected it past Carruth putting the home side ahead by three goals. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
At the mid point of the game the Oil Kings would add some insurance. T.J. Foster, snake-bitten for much of the playoffs but continually generating chances, had hit the cross bar in the first period. In the second he would have another golden opportunity as he and Jordan Peddle sped across the Portland blueline 2-on-1. Foster elected to keep and shoot and made no mistake finally beating Carruth.

Portland's lone goal of the night came began with a pass from Sherwood Park product Joe Morrow to Edmonton native Oliver Gabriel. The birthday boy split the defence and tucked the puck past Laurent Brossoit to make the score 4-1.

The Oil Kings had only lost once all season when taking a lead into the third period. That, plus the fact that no road team had ever won Game 7 in the WHL finals, all pointed to victory for Edmonton as play started in the final frame. And there was no scoring in the third period as the Oil Kings limited Portland to just 4 shots over the final 20 minutes of the game. 

It was arguably the best game Edmonton had played since the second round of the playoffs when they completed dismantled the Brandon Wheat Kings in the final game of that series. 

The Oil Kings were led by their veterans once again; 20-year-olds Rhett Rachinski, Tyler Maxwell and Jordan Peddle all contributed on the score sheet and captain Mark Pysyk was +3 on the night. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
Laurent Brossoit was named the WHL Playoff MVP for his body of work over the last two months, a very deserving choice. 


- Portland's Sven Bartschi and Ty Rattie were held to just one point each in the last three games of the series.

- Brad Ross was up to his usual stunts at the end of the game as he began laying the lumber on Michael St. Croix before dropping the gloves and punching the surprised Oil King. Two minutes before I had actually Tweeted that "The Brad Ross Watch" was on and sure enough... 

- The two lesser known Winterhawks that stood out to me in the series were Brendan Leipsic and Oliver Gabriel. While the bigger name Portland players were hot and cold, I thought those two were consistently strong for the Western Conference champs. 

- Edmonton leaves for the Mastercard Memorial Cup on Wednesday. Their first game of the event comes Friday against the host team, Shawinigan Cataractes. The Cataractes were ousted early in the playoffs but are a formidable team that will be well rested. 

- The annual Memorial Cup Coach's Show is this Tuesday night on The Pipeline Show. All four coaches are expected to join us for what has become one of the most popular shows that we do all year long. Catch that on the TEAM 1260 from 7-9pm MST or listen online at             

No comments: