Portland Winterhawks captain William Wrenn is getting something he knows is rare ? a second shot at leading a team to the Western Hockey League championship.
"To make it that far after the season and stay around and work that hard for something and fall just barely short is really tough," said Wrenn, whose team lost 4-1 in last year's final to the Kootenay Ice.
The Winterhawks open the WHL final Thursday in Edmonton against the Oil Kings.
"I'm lucky enough to have another shot this year. That doesn't happen for a lot of guys," Wrenn added. "We've been playing all year for it, I know it's a cliche, but this is what it's all about."
This year's WHL final is a case of the old Oil Kings versus the new Oil Kings.
The Winterhawks got their name in 1976, when the original Oil Kings left Edmonton for Oregon. The latest incarnation of the Oil Kings dates back to just 2007.
Portland hasn't won a WHL title since 1998, when they also went on to win the Memorial Cup. Edmonton hasn't won one since 1972, but then, for a lot of those years, the city didn't even have a WHL team.
Wrenn knows this is going to be a tough series with two well-matched teams
"I anticipate it being really fast-paced, high intensity," he said. "They've got some big defencemen. They've got a couple of scorers who are big guys to go along with it.
"Defence is going to be huge on both sides to be successful, the amount of scoring touch both sides have."
Portland might have the edge in scoring potential.
Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi are the top playoff scorers and Rattie finished the regular season with 57 goals and 121 points.
But Edmonton's Michael St. Croix also cracked the regular-season scoring list at No. 8 with 45 goals and 105 points. Curtis Lazar is Edmonton's top playoff scorer with eight goals and 16 points.
A big part of the Oil Kings' success, however, is Edmonton netminder Laurent Brossoit. He has the best playoff record so far in just about every category and finished the regular season a close second only to Tri-City's Ty Rimmer in goals-against-average.
"He's stepped up for us huge," said Edmonton captain Mark Pysyk. "He's won a couple of games where we shouldn't have been so fortunate ... Hopefully he can keep that up."
If Portland's edge is offence, Edmonton's may be defence, with players like the veteran Pysyk and six-foot-five rookie Martin Gernat.
"Our coach has been teaching us all year that defence comes first and once we take care of the defence, the offence will just fall into place," said Pysyk. "That's sort of the mentality we've had for the whole playoffs."