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Winterhawks defeat Oil Kings, win WHL Championship

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

- For now, the business will be left unfinished.

There will be no repeat, no after-party and no return trip to the Memorial Cup. The Portland Winterhawks are 2013 Western Hockey League champions.

Scoring his 48th, 49th and 50th career WHL playoff goals, Ty Rattie's record-breaking effort lifted the Winterhawks to a 5-1 win in Game 6 Sunday afternoon at Rexall Place. In doing so, Rattie, a prospect of the NHL's St. Louis Blues, became the League's new record-holder for career goals in the post-season.

Rattie collected a total of 36 points in the post-season and was named playoff MVP after torching the Everett Silvertips, Spokane Chiefs, Kamloops Blazers and Oil Kings.

"It feels really, really good," Rattie said as media swarmed the ice post-game. "It's the best feeling ever. It's something I've never going to forget. There's no feeling like this."

"It's tough," countered Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal. "The kids are down and they feel the pain. It sure is a lot tougher being on this side than the other side like last year. Give full credit to Portland. They played us hard, have a heckuva hockey club over there and are going to have a good run at the Memorial Cup.

"Give our kids a lot of credit, too. They played hard all year, got over 60 wins and won the Eastern Conference Championship -- it was a pretty special season. They had a great year and laid it all on the line. We asked a lot of them and demanded a lot out of them."

"I can't even explain it," added goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who made 19 saves on the night and will likely begin the 2013-14 campaign somewhere in the Calgary Flames organization. "We worked very hard to go so far. It hurts. To come up short after giving everything you have and it's still not enough, it's a feeling I can't explain."

Needing a quick start, the Oil Kings got it at 1:04 as Oilers prospect Travis Ewanyk gave the home side an early 1-0 lead. Galloping down the wing, Ewanyk's attempted shot redirected off a skate and into the slot, where Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot inadvertently punted the puck into his own net.

It was the only puck that got past Carruth -- he made 26 saves in all. The 21-year-old prospect of the Chicago Blackhawks punched his ticket to the Memorial Cup riding a 1.63 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.

"Unbelievable," he shouted as media mobbbed his crease. "We came up short two years in a row and apparently the third time's a charm. The fans didn't boo us and that shows a lot of class from them. It's an unbelievable feeling."

"We couldn't script it any better," Ewanyk said of the goal. "We got a great bounce and were really moving out there. But give Portland credit. They played us hard and they deserved the win. They're going to represent the WHL (at the Memorial Cup) well."

The Oil Kings were granted a glorious opportunity to bury the Winterhawks shortly after the icebreaker as Chase De Leo was assessed a double minor for high-sticking.

Just as it has all series, however, the power-play failed to click (ending the season on an 0-for-34 stretch). And on this night, in a sequence of events no one saw coming, the punishment was far, far worse.

Both shorthanded and separated by less than 200 seconds, Rattie scored goals No. 48 and 49, silencing the 7,449 in attendance and giving the Winterhawks a 2-1 lead.

First pouncing on an error by Oilers prospect Martin Gernat and then springing his linemate with a quick outlet pass, 2013 draft-eligible prospect Nic Petan assisted on both, adding a third when Rattie completed the hat trick in the second period.

"They're big goals," said Rattie. "They got off to a quick start with that lucky goal and that four-minute PK was big for us to get a couple goals and really set the pace for the game."

"Our power-play was awful all series," added TJ Foster who, as a 20-year-old, will moving on to bigger and better things next season. "We were pretty lethargic, weren't ready to go and they capitalized. (Rattie) showed why he's one of the best players in the League tonight."

Brossoit made 12 saves in the opening 20 minutes. If not for him, the score could have been a lot worse.

"He was getting bombarded," said Laxdal. "Calgary's got a great prospect on their hands. It's going to be fun to watch him take the next step."

The Winterhawks made it a 3-1 game 3:54 into the second period. Just after an interference penalty to Mitch Moroz expired, Oliver Bjorkstrand stepped into a shooting position off the half wall and dribbled a wrist shot under the glove of Brossoit.

With 6:35 to play in the second, Rattie completed the hat trick by scooping up a loose puck and popping a backhand shot past Brossoit, who had little to no chance of putting the brakes on the sniper's slick moves.

Portland held a slim 20-19 edge in shots after 40 minutes.

The Oil Kings had a chance to inch closer early in the third as Curtis Lazar was set up beautifully at the lip of the crease, but the sniper's one-time shot was emphatically snared by Carruth.

Lazar had another wonderful chance moments later as he burst up the middle on a breakaway, but Carruth was there once again.

"The group of guys we had this year, we really thought it was our year," said Lazar. "We left it all on the ice. Every single one of us battled hard, but Portland's a heckuva team and good luck to them."

Taylor Leier salted the outcome with an empty-netter with 39 seconds to play.

The Oil Kings will be a much different team next season. Twenty-year-olds Foster, Trevor Cheek (signed with the Colorado Avalanche) and Dylan Wruck will be moving on. Several other 19-year-olds, such as Brossoit, Ewanyk, Henrik Samuelsson, Martin Gernat, Michael St. Croix and David Musil could be poised to begin their pro careers, too.

"I was pretty fortunate to get a bit of everything (in my career)," said Foster, who was around in 2009-10 when the Oil Kings won only 16 games. "It feels awesome (to win) after you struggle like that. When you get a chance to win a championship with a group of guys like that, it's pretty special. We had a great team."

"It's a tough way to go out, but they have great memories here and we're very proud of that group of kids," added Laxdal. "Starting tomorrow, we're trying to get back here again next year."

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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