Griffin Reinhart isn’t quite ready to cap off his Canadian junior career, but he concluded his Western Hockey League career in style Monday, leading the Edmonton Oil Kings in a gutsy comeback to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champs.
Reinhart, the Islanders’ fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft, captained the Oil Kings to their second WHL title in three seasons, erasing a 2-0 series deficit against the defending champions, Portland Winterhawks, while being named the championship series MVP.
“It’s surreal,” Reinhart told WHL.ca. “This team has got great character and we never give up…We were down 2-0 in the series and 2-0 in Game 3, but we always found a response.”
The Oil Kings battled back with three straight wins – two in Edmonton, one in Portland – to take a 3-2 series lead. Reinhart played an essential part in the game-five victory, scoring a goal and setting up the game-winner.
The Oil Kings had a geyser of momentum heading into game six and had drilled a three-goal lead with 20 minutes separating them from a trip to London, Ontario for the Memorial Cup, but the overzealous kids let the lead slip away and lost 6-5 in overtime.
Like any good prospector, Reinhart and the Oil Kings moved their rig, drilled back into the ground and struck it rich in game seven, winning 4-2 at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s a game of momentum and you could see all the swings going back and forth,” Reinhart told the Oil Kings official website. “Both teams had their times where they were playing better hockey and we’ve always responded well to adversity and we’ve shown that by coming back here up (three goals) going into the third and be able to hold on this time.”
Griffin Reinhart embodies the spirit of an Oil King. He’s a rugged, physical defenseman, standing 6’4” on the Edmonton blueline, staking his claim for the league’s title and defending it at all costs. The slick defenseman covers just about anything; he’s a premier shutdown defenseman in his league and plays like a man amongst boys.
The Oil Kings won the WHL title in 2012 and were runners-up in 2013 – both series were against Portland – but were largely counted out at the onset of the season after losing 10 players from those elite squads. Reinhart would have none of it, leading the Oil Kings to their third-straight 50-win season and WHL finals appearance.
The West Vancouver, BC, native received a long look at Islanders training camp in October, but was left to marinate for one more season in juniors. With four years of junior hockey under his belt, a Memorial Cup would be the ultimate sendoff into the professional ranks, but with two titles and a playoff MVP to his credit, Reinhart has accomplished all he can in the Western league.
Long Island beckons, but first the prospector has one last chance at pay dirt in London.