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Winterhawks advance to WHL Western Conference finals

Portland plays either Spokane or Tri-City

The Portland Winterhawks have moved on to the Western Hockey League Western Conference finals for the first time since 2001.

The Winterhawks beat the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 in Game 6 of their WHL second-round series Sunday, claiming the series in six games, two nights after not being able to close it out at home.

The first two games of the Western Conference finals will be at the Rose Garden, 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday. The opponent will be either Spokane or Tri-City.

Medicine Hat and Kootenay will meet in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Winterhawks' line of Sven Bartschi, Craig Cunningham and Ty Rattie did most of the damage in the Game 6 win at Kelowna, British Columbia, scoring three of the team's four goals. That line got Portland on the board with two goals just 51 seconds apart in the first period, when Rattie and Bartschi scored in quick succession to give Portland an early 2-0 lead, a score that would last through the end of the period.

The Winterhawks then made it 3-0 when Cunningham scored 3:14 into the second period, his fifth of the postseason. But Kelowna got one back when Geordie Wudrick scored at the 13:03 mark, as the Hawks took a 3-1 lead into the third period.

The Rockets then cut the lead to one when Brett Bulmer scored a power-play goal 54 seconds into the third period, cutting Portland's lead to 3-2. But from there the Winterhawks slammed the door, and late in the game with Rockets netminder Adam Brown on the bench for an extra attacker, Portland defenseman Joe Morrow scored into an empty net with 3.3 seconds remaining to seal the 4-2 win.

Goaltender Mac Carruth was terrific in the win, making 45 saves on 47 shots. Brown made 35 shots on 38 Winterhawks shots.

Bartschi finished with three points on a goal and two assists, while Rattie and Cunningham each finished with two points.