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Rattie focus again against Kamloops


Blazers banged him up in 2012 playoffs, and rematch looms

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Forward Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks, skating in the 2013 Western Conference semifinals versus Spokane, was a marked man in last year's Western Hockey League playoffs and figures to draw attention again from the Kamloops Blazers, who will face the Hawks in the West finals starting this weekend.Ty Rattie entered the Western Hockey League with lofty expectations.

The Portland Winterhawks, then a woebegone franchise with bad ownership, made Rattie their No. 1 bantam pick — second overall — in 2008, and everybody around the WHL knew they had landed a gem.

Five years later, everybody was right.

Going into the Hawks’ Western Conference finals series opener Friday against Kamloops, Rattie sits fifth in WHL all-time playoff scoring (41 goals-37 assists-78 points) and is tied for second all-time in playoff goals. He has 151 goals and 197 assists for 348 points in 269

career regular-season games.

And the Hawks are shooting for their third consecutive conference title.

“It’s pretty cool. With all the great players who’ve played in this league, to be in that category is an amazing feat,” Rattie says. “To play all these playoff games with a great organization like the Portland Winterhawks, it’s been fun, and, hopefully, we keep going in these next two rounds.”

Coach Travis Green watched Rattie evolve and land as a second-round draft pick by the St. Louis Blues in 2011. Even with his top-end skill level that could serve him well in future NHL campaigns, Rattie has shown toughness befitting a quality hockey player. Case in point: Last year against Kamloops, JC Lipon leveled him on a hit, and the 6-foot, 175-pound Rattie suffered a neck injury. It was a clean, hockey playoff hit, Rattie says. He played in the next game, even after doing media interviews in a neck brace.

“You don’t want to take too much time off,” Rattie says. “I wanted to be out there so badly with the boys.”

“He’s an offensive guy, but Ty’s a competitor,” Green says. “It’s not just about scoring goals for Ty. He’s learned to play on both sides of the puck.

“He’s used to taking hits and giving hits now. It’s part of playoff hockey. ... He’s a guy we’ve leaned on a lot over the years, a guy we’ll continue to have to lean on, if we want to go far.”

The Winterhawks beat Kamloops in seven games last year before winning the conference crown and facing Edmonton in WHL finals. Rattie reinjured his neck and had to sit out a game, and the Oil Kings went on to beat the Hawks in seven games.

Rattie had the opportunity to play for Canada in the World Junior Tournament and, lo and behold, whom does he befriend? — Lipon, one of the Kamloops Blazers’ star players.

“Everything’s behind us,” Rattie says. “But, as soon as we get on the ice, we won’t be talking.”

The Winterhawks (57-12-1-2, 115 points) took three of four games against Kamloops (47-20-2-3, 99 points) during the 2012-13 regular season. Kamloops had a blistering start, only to fall off, while Portland played consistently throughout to earn the league’s best record.

Rattie predicts a six- or seven-game series.

Portland veteran Taylor Peters sees a lot of similarities between the teams.

“They play a fast, skilled game, work really hard and they get to the net,” he says. Goalies Cole Cheveldave of Kamloops and Mac Carruth of Portland will battle it out, Peters adds.

“It’s going to be exciting to see,” he adds.

The Blazers have high-end talent in Lipon, as well as Colin Smith and Tim Bozon, although Smith and Bozon have been injured. Smith had 41 goals, 65 assists and 106 points and Bozon 36-55-91 during the regular season. Lipon has been playing with Brendan Ranford and Cole Ully during the playoffs.

“Not sure what their situation is with injuries,” Peters says, “but when they have their top three guys going, it’s going to be dangerous.”

One would suspect the Blazers will try to be physical again with Rattie and fellow prolific scorers Nicolas Petan and Brendan Leipsic. That wouldn’t surprise Green.

“In the playoffs, everyone’s physical,” he says. “At this time of year, if you’re not playing physical, there’s something wrong.”

Says Rattie: “I think they’re bigger than us, that’s for sure. In a series like this, we have to use our speed. Our speed has worked the past two series. We’ll come up with a game plan that will hopefully pay dividends.”

Peters envisions defending Lipon and his mates, and trying to be just as physical against them.

Green says Kamloops will be formidable, not just because of their notable talent, but because they traded for 20-year-old Kale Kessy and 19-year-old defenseman Joel Edmundson during the season.

“They wanted to take a shot at winning (the WHL),” Green says. “They’ve had a great year. Should be a good series.”

Meanwhile, the “Battle of Alberta” takes place in the Eastern Conference finals, and the Hawks and their fans should certainly be interested to see who wins between Edmonton and Calgary.

All season, the consensus has been that Portland and Edmonton would again square off for the WHL title, eventually, just like last season. Should it happen, it could be another epic series, with Portland holding home-ice advantage this time.

Then again, the Calgary Hitmen, coached by former Hawk player and coach Mike Williamson, could have something to say about things.

“They definitely deserve to be there, both are hard-working and skilled teams,” Peters says. “Whoever comes out of that series, good for them. Whoever comes out of this series ... hopefully it’s us. We’re ready to go.”

Rattie wouldn’t venture too far into talking about the Eastern Conference finals.

“Kamloops is a great team,” he says. “Can’t look ahead of them. It’ll be a hard-fought series. We’re ready for a dogfight.”