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Edmonton tops Portland in WHL finals opener

EDMONTON, Alberta – Jordan Peddle scored a short-handed goal for the eventual winner Thursday as the Edmonton Oil Kings defeated the Portland Winterhawks 3-2 in Game 1 of the Western Hockey League finals.

Edmonton got early scores from Rhett Rachinski and Martin Gernat and led 3-0 after Peddle’s goal 14:30 into the second period with teammate Curtis Lazar in the box for checking from behind.

Twelve seconds later, Portland’s Marcel Noebels scored before the penalty could expire to give Portland life.

“We came out with a pretty good first period and got up 3-0. I thought we gave up a bit of a weak penalty kill goal,” Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal said. “You saw the firepower that Portland has. They have that great transition game. We have to refocus for (tonight) and Game 2.”

Sven Bartschi scored for the Winterhawks at 16:39 of the second period to cut the deficit to the final margin. Ty Rattie’s assist on Bartschi’s goal kept him on top of WHL postseason scoring with 30 points.

Early in the third period Rattie was drilled into the side boards on a devastating hit by Edmonton winger Mitch Moroz. Rattie’s head snapped back into the boards on the hit, which was ruled clean by the officials.

He left the game and did not return.

“Ty’s really good with the puck. He manages it well and keeps it to the outside,” Portland head coach Mike Johnston said. “He got on one leg and was taken into the boards off-balance. He seems to be fine. We’ll see how he is. You’re always cautious (in those situations).”

The teams combined to lose only four games in the postseason entering the final series, with Edmonton’s lone loss coming on the road against Moose Jaw in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“It was a lot like the script we expected,” Johnston said. “Our team got better as the game went along.

“The first goal set us back a bit, but we started to play well in quite a few areas. We missed a few opportunities around the net.

“Certainly Edmonton’s a dynamic team and you have to make sure you good on the backcheck. The two teams front to back are very similar in a lot of ways.”

The game marked the first time the teams have met in the playoffs since Edmonton’s modern era franchise began in 2007. The original Oil Kings relocated in 1976 to Portland, where Laxdal played during the Winterhawks’ 1982-83 Memorial Cup season.