The angst in the Rose Garden was steadily rising. The Winterhawks were clinging to a one-goal lead in the third period, but Kamloops was threatening to even it up.
Then Portland right wing Ty Rattie let the whole arena blow a collective sigh of relief.
Rattie netted a short-handed goal midway through the final period Friday night to propel the Winterhawks to a 4-1 victory and a third consecutive Western Hockey League Western Conference championship.
We have played well when weve needed to all year, Portland coach Travis Green said. 'Rat is one of those special guys. He has been there time and time again for us.
With the Blazers looking for any kind of break to tie the game, they appeared to get one by way of an odd call from the referees. With 10:32 remaining, Portlands Keegan Iverson smacked the puck to clear it away from goaltender Mac Carruth. The puck sailed over the glass and into the stands, leading the officials to penalize Iverson for delay of game.
The Winterhawks on the ice at the time insisted the puck was deflected and pointed to the video replay as evidence. Their pleas were dismissed, and Iverson was sent to the penalty box.
About 30 seconds into the power play, Rattie intercepted a lazy Kamloops pass at the center line. He pushed it all the way to the net, where he sneaked it past goaltender Cole Cheveldave from the left side for the short-handed score. That put Portland up 3-1 and gave the Hawks the breathing they needed.
Top goal of my career, Rattie said. With the crowd being so loud and with as close as the game was, it was awesome to score. That ranks No. 1 for the most exciting goal Ive ever scored.
As the seconds and minutes ticked away after Ratties goal, Kamloops became more urgent and did everything it could to get off a few shots. But Portlands defense was just as physical in the third period as it was early in the game, and the Hawks matched the Blazers urgency.
Kamloops hope died with six minutes left. when Portland scored a power-play goal for the three-goal lead before the crowd of 9.742.
The knockout blow came when Derrick Pouliot smashed a one-timer at Cheveldaves left shoulder. Cheveldave stopped it with his glove, but didnt catch it. As the puck fell to the ice, Portland center Nicolas Petan flipped it just inside the right post before Cheveldave could recover.
Portland outshot Kamloops 41-23. Carruth had 22 saves to continue his hot play in the net. The Winterhawks also got goals from Seth Jones and Taylor Leier.
Ratties goal in the third period was his fourth of the series and 15th of the postseason. He also had eight assists in the series and was named series MVP.
The Winterhawks will play host to either defending WHL champion Edmonton or Calgary on Friday in Game 1 of the WHL finals.
Edmonton beat visiting Calgary 5-1 Friday to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is Sunday at Calgary. Game 7 would be Tuesday at Edmonton.