Oil Kings stand up under 'Hawks rally

Edmonton's Kristians Pelss prevents Portland's Cam Reid from taking a shot during Game 1 of the WHL...

Edmonton's Kristians Pelss prevents Portland's Cam Reid from taking a shot during Game 1 of the WHL final at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., May 3, 2012. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

DAVE CAMERON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:24 AM ET

EDMONTON - The Portland Winterhawks can score in the blink of an eye.

But the Edmonton Oil Kings had their eyes wide open in closing down the high-powered Hawks 3-2 in Game 1 of the WHL finals at Rexall Place Thursday night.

It looked like it could be leaning toward a runaway when the Oil Kings took a 3-0 lead in the second but blink, blink, it was a one-goal lead at the end of the period.

But the Oil Kings just clamped down harder in the third. Backed once gain by the MVP-calibre goaltending of Laurent Brossoit, the Oil Kings never let the Hawks have second-chances and buried their chances at the other end.

“We came out and established the lead with a couple of big goals,” said Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal, noting the tense and tight play. “You saw the firepower Portland has. I thought we did a great job in that third period protecting the lead.”

Portland bench boss Mike Johnston saw it much the same as the Winterhawks begin their second-straight WHL final.

“This is what we expected in this series. We thought it was going to be tight. The two teams, front to back are very similar in a lot of ways,” said Johnston.

“So what they’re planning is similar to what we try to do.”

Rhett Rachinski, parked in the crease, opened scoring when he tipped a drifting shot from the point from Mark Pysyk past Mac Carruth at 1:25 of the first.

Mitch Moroz bulldogged straight to the net and a pinching Martin Gernat converted it to make it 2-0 at 4:59 of the second.

Jordan Peddle blasted one over a weak-looking Carruth to make it 3-0, a short-hander at 14:30.

All three played their parts in the story.

Peddle had a front-row seat in the penalty box, as his linemate Rachinski stayed out on the ice for the 5-on-4, then 5-on-3, penalty kill in the first.

“An incredible job by him,” said Peddle. “They didn’t score on the 5-on-3. He did his job to a T, perfectly.”

On his goal, he saw something.

“I actually was (aiming), surprisingly. I saw a little bit of glove side and a little bit of a half slapshot-snapshot happens to go in — a nice feeling.”

But it didn’t last long as Marcel Noebels scored for Portland 12 seconds later. Suddenly the Hawks were back in it 3-2, when Sven Bartschi scored two minutes later.

But story — maybe the series — took a twist in the third when Moroz rode playoff-leading scorer Ty Rattie into the boards, continuing a recent Oil King tradition of having eventful games on their birthdays.

“He was just trying finish his hit, a clean hit,” said Laxdal. “And Rattie was just trying to drive wide.”

“Me finishing my hit,” said Moroz. “I hope he’s OK, it’s just the way I play. All the best to him, but those are hits I’ve got to make.”

“I didn’t see how hard he was taken in, but he was off-balance,” said Johnston. “We’ll see how he is (Friday). Whenever those situations you’re always cautious,” he said of his star not returning.

david.cameron@sunmedia.ca


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