Edmonton Journal article (Rachinski the OT hero as Oil Kings tie series)May 9 2012 at 6:55 AM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
Rachinski the OT hero as Oil Kings tie series
Game 5 of WHL championship series against Winterhawks goes Thursday night at Rexall Place
By Chris O'Leary, edmontonjournal.com
May 9, 2012 7:03 AM
Oil Kings Curtis Lazar celebrates with Tyler Maxwell after he scored in the second period. The Oil Kings had a 3-1 lead going into the final period in game 4 of the Western Hockey League Championship playoffs at the Rose Garden.
Photograph by: Doug Beghtel/ The Oregonian , edmontonjournal.com
PORTLAND, ORE. — All year, the knock on the Edmonton Oil Kings has been that they weren’t experienced enough.
The young team went into the Western Hockey League playoffs back in March without a win in two previous rounds.
Bouncing back from a gut-wrenching two-game stretch against the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL final, the Oil Kings can start to add battle-tested to their still-growing resume.
Playing without suspended forward Henrik Samuelsson, the Oil Kings survived a monstrous third-period effort led by a two-goal burst from Portland’s Sven Baertschi and ventured into their first overtime game of the playoffs.
Rhett Rachinski’s wrist shot from the left wing — his second goal of the game — saved Edmonton’s season and knotted the series at two games apiece.
The victims of a suffocating Portland forecheck in the Game 2 and 3 losses, the Oil Kings needed to right the ship before dropping a third straight game and losing control of the series. Edmonton responded Tuesday night by defeating the Winterhawks in a game that head coach Derek Laxdal likened to a heavyweight fight.
“We have a quote on the board in the dressing room that says, ‘Adversity builds character,’ ” Laxdal said.
“And our group is willing every game that we play. The more adversity you face, the better off you’re going to be as a player and a person. It’s part of the program that we preach here with the Oil Kings. When you walk away an Oil King, you’ll walk away with pretty good character and personality.”
Rachinski sat at the post-game podium next to Laxdal with his exhaustion obvious. The 20-year-old Edmonton product said the goal came off a weird play.
“The coaches were just telling the guys to put the puck on net,” he said. “I think Mitchy (Mitchell Moroz) tried to dump it in there and it hit the d-man and popped right to me. I just kind of came off the wall there and saw an opportunity to shoot.
“Honestly, I didn’t see it go in but once I saw the reaction from the guys, it was pretty special.”
It was special and it completely altered the series. A 3-1 Winterhawks lead coming off three consecutive wins — especially with the third win coming from a two-goal, third-period deficit — is enough to break a team. Instead, both clubs are at the halfway point in their race to the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Portland opened the scoring just 81 seconds into the game. After Edmonton winger Curtis Lazar clanged a shot off the post, Winterhawks’ forward Marcel Noebels sprung lose for a breakaway and roofed a shot over Brossoit. The Oil Kings stayed aggressive on offence and created chances, which they got away from consistently in the previous two games. It paid off in a four-on-four at 15:50, when Jordan Peddle spotted Rachinski in front of the net for an easy finish. The first period ended as a draw.
The Oil Kings opened up a 3-1 lead in the second period behind goals from Tyler Maxwell and Stephane Legault. With just 16 seconds left in the second period, Martin Gernat and Portland agitator Brad Ross wrestled on the ice. That was almost topped at the end of the period, when Carruth and Brossoit exchanged words at centre ice.
The Oil Kings had clearly taken the second round of the bout, but the third round belonged to Baertschi and Portland.
Baertschi’s first goal of the night came at 3:49 of the third period. The Calgary Flames prospect got started by finishing a Noebels-Ty Rattie setup in front of the net to make it a one-goal affair. Trailing by a goal with a crowd of 10, 947 that pushed the 100-decibel mark all night behind them, the Winterhawks pushed Edmonton out of the drivers’ seat, peppering shots at Brossoit.
Baertschi added to his highlight reel with the equalizer at 9:06. He dove to finish a centring pass from defenceman Derek Pouliot, sliding it past a sprawling Brossoit.
Baertschi almost had the natural hat trick just inside the 12-minute mark, narrowly missing a redirection in front of the net. Rattie almost had the go-ahead goal seconds later. His shot on Brossoit was stopped, trickled behind the goalie and fell short of the goal-line before Brossoit fell on his back to make the save.
The game headed to overtime with both goalies having faced 37 shots.
The Rose Garden crowd buzzed over every change of possession in overtime, starving for one last act of heroics from the ’Hawks.
Rachinski did what seemed impossible all night and silenced the crowd with the shot that he didn’t see zip past Carruth. Both goalies ended up having 42 shots fired on them.
“It wasn’t exactly the way we wanted to win the game there, giving up a two-goal lead in the third period,” Rachinski said. “But our guys showed a pretty gutsy effort hanging in there. (Portland) brought it pretty hard and we were able to weather the storm and win in overtime.”
The Oil Kings took Portland’s first goal as an opportunity to exact some revenge. With the goal celebration hit on Mitchell Moroz from Game 3 in mind, the replay of Noebels’ goal showed an Oil Kings’ stick get into the celebratory scrum and make contact with Noebels. A penalty wasn’t called on the play.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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