WHL champs hope to bring Memorial Cup to Portland

by: COURTESY OF PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS - Coach Travis Green hoists the Ed Chynoweth Cup after the Winterhawks won the Western Hockey League title last Sunday at Edmonton.The Portland Winterhawks, having achieved one major goal — winning the Western Hockey League championship — are off chasing another one at the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, Saskatechwan.

The week-long tournament, which starts Friday, is the icing on the cake, the gravy on top, the missing jewel in the crown — whatever cliché comes to mind.

“This is our turn. We’re going to make a helluva run,” Portland veteran center Taylor Peters says. “We really have a good chance of bringing the Memorial Cup home.”

The Hawks play Halifax, the talented Quebec champ, at 4 p.m. Saturday. They will play London, the two-time Ontario champ, at 5 p.m. Monday. Then they play Saskatoon, the host team, at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The round-robin format will produce the teams for the semifinals (May 25) and finals (May 26).

All Portland games will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Northwest and KPAM (860 AM) and all Cup games will be tape-delayed on the NHL Network.

The Hawks are hoping to win their third Canadian Hockey League championship, to go with their 1983 and ‘98 Memorial Cup titles.

“We’ve talked about winning it,” goalie Mac Carruth says. “We want to have fun, but our team is very businesslike.”

The stakes are high every night.

“Every game is Game 7,” Carruth says. “There won’t be a whole lot of feeling out (the other teams).”

n A London-Saskatoon matchup gets things going at 5 p.m. Friday.

The next night will be quite a spectacle, with the meeting of the Hawks and Halifax, the consensus top two CHL teams all year.

Portland has scores of either signed NHL players or prospects, including Ty Rattie, Tyler Wotherspoon and Seth Jones, the No. 1-ranked player in Central Scouting for the NHL draft.

The Mooseheads feature Central Scouting’s No. 2 (Nathan McKinnon) and No. 3 (Jonathan Drouin) players, both skilled forwards, as well as No. 1-ranked goalie Zachary Fucale.

Portland set a franchise record for points (117, 57-12-1-2 record), with 334 goals and 169 against.

Halifax went 58-6-3-1 (120 points), scored 347 goals and allowed 176. The Mooseheads swept three playoff opponents and beat Baie-Comeau 4-1 for the Quebec title.

Peters will play a big part in defending the 5-11, 175-pound Drouin and the 5-11, 180-pound McKinnon.

“They’re top-end players, really skilled,” he says. “But I don’t see a lot of guys making moves when they’re on their back.

“My line’s playing really well, physically. We’ve been grinding on the top guys. I think if we play the way we’ve been playing for the entire playoffs, we won’t have a problem with them.”

n London, owned by the Hunter brothers and coached by former NHL player and coach Dale Hunter, returns to the Memorial Cup after beating Barrie in Game 7 of the Ontario playoffs 3-2 on Bo Horvat’s goal with one-tenth of a second left.

The Knights feature 5-10, 195 Max Domi, son of former NHLer Tie Domi. He leads in playoff scoring (11 goals, 21 assists, 32 points). Scott Harrington stands out as a high-end defenseman, and Anthony Stolarz is a big (6-6, 220) goalie.

London went 50-13-2-3 (105 points) with 279 goals and 180 against during the regular season.

“They’re going to be a hard-working team, you know that,” Portland coach Travis Green says.

n Saskatoon is loaded up with veterans, with an astounding 15 19-year-olds and three overages.

The Blades were 44-22-2-4 for 94 points during the regular season, but they bowed out — getting swept — against Medicine Hat in the first round of the WHL playoffs. They haven’t played since March 27, meaning it’ll be a mere 50-day break between games before Friday’s tilt.

Josh Nicholls (47-38-85) and Matej Stransky (40-45-85) were the club’s regular-season leading scorers, and Andrey Makarov mans the goal. The Blades have some size.

Portland beat Saskatoon on the road 4-0 on Oct. 10.

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