Monday, May 2, 2011


If you are keeping score then after tonight 2 New York Islander prospects and 1 New York Ranger prospect are getting to play for their league championship. Joining the party tonight was Nino Niederreiter and his Portland Winterhawks after the Winterhawks defeated the Spokane Chiefs 6-3 to eliminate them in 6 games.

For people like Andy Kemper and Kelly Robinett, the trip to the WHL finals is redemption for suffering though 3 years where the Winterhawks were living in the WHL cellar. Kemper the voice of the Winterhawks took a ton of abuse as the public face of the team but also having to replace a legend behind the mike in Scooter Vrooman.

Robinett is the VP of Operations for the team, a really genuine nice guy who watched the previous owners just totally screw up not only the team on the ice but the office staff and then alienate the fan base. We are happy for both and tonight is just the first reward for their loyalty.

Once again the hero for the Winterhawks was Sven Bartschi who followed up his Game 5 heroics with a 2nd three point performance. It was Bartschi who got the Winterhawks going as they spotted the Chiefs as they did all series long an early lead.

At least this time Portland held off the Chiefs until the 2:32 mark before yielding the first goal of the game. In the series Portland failed to score the first goal of the game in all 6 games and had to play from behind in every game.

It did not stay 1-0 very long as the Chiefs scored again just 1 minute later to make it 2-0 and for a while it looked like it would be a 7th game. That is until Bartschi went to work as he scored his 5th goal of the playoffs at 8:17 to make it 2-1 which was how the 1st period ended.

In the 2nd period, Ryan Johansen tied the game at 2-2 when he scored his 11th of the playoffs at 8:38 of the period. Just like the Chiefs did in the first period, it was the Winterhawks who scored exactly 1 minute later at 9:38 when Craig Cunningham scored his 7th of the playoffs to give Portland the 3-2 lead.

Yes that Craig Cunningham the player that the Rangers had on their Traverse City roster in 2009 who would put up his own 3 point night. Cunningham who the Boston Bruins would draft in the 2010 draft has been a big factor in Portland's playoff run.

Cunningham already has 1 Memorial Cup title on his resume is the center for Sven Bartschi and Ty Rattie. Cunningham is 7-9-16 for the playoffs as he has helped Bartschi and Rattie develop.

In the 3rd period defenseman Troy Rutkowski put the Winterhawks for good at 5:22 off a feed from Joe Morrow. It was the 1st of 2 assists for Morrow who like Bartschi and Rattie is seeing his draft stock improve with each passing day.

Up 4-2, the Winterhawks went for the kill as this time there was not let up by them. At 14:07 it was Ty Rattie scoring his 6th goal of the playoffs to make it 5-2 Portland.

Bartschi and Cunningham had the assists on the goal to give both players their 3rd point of the night. It was Nino Niederreiter who put the final dagger in the Chiefs when he ended a 6 game goalless streak with his 8th goal of the playoffs at 17:41 for the final goal and a 6-3 score.

Portland wins the WHL Western Conference Championship and for the first time since the 2001 finals. They will take on the Kootenay Ice the winners of the WHL Eastern Conference starting on Friday night.


Tuesday is going to be very interesting as Ryan Bourque and his Quebec Remparts will play in Game 7 of their series against the Gatineau Olympiques with the winner advancing to the QMJHL finals. The Remparts for the 2nd straight series has blown a 3-1 lead so let us see if Ryan Bourque can step up yet again when the Remparts need it.

In the OHL, Scott Stajcer and his Owen Sound Attack will be in Mississauga for Game 1 of the OHL finals against Casey Cizikas and the Majors. The Majors are overwhelming favorites after dominating the OHL regular season as well as the playoffs.

For us the key is going to be Stajcer as he is going to play big to give Owen Sound a chance. Yes our Ranger bias is coming out here as we have been watching Stajcer get hardly any credit for his play so we will say Owen Sound OHL champs in 6 games.

(Images-Portland Winterhawks)

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