Oil Kings checkers come up big
Foster, Rachinski, Peddle play key role in WHL final
By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com
May 13, 2012
Edmonton Oil Kings' Rhett Rachinski scores on Portland WinterHawks Mac Carruth during first period action of game 7 of the WHL championship series on May 13, 2012 in Edmonton.
Photograph by: Greg Southam , edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - Who knew that the checkers would need shadows?
“They’re like dogs on a bone,” said a laughing San Jose Sharks scout Brian Gross, as he watched Rhett Rachinski, Jordan Peddle and T.J Foster give the Portland Winterhawks fits while scoring twice Sunday in Game 7 of the Western Hockey League final.
Rachinski, who got the game’s first goal in what could have been his final junior game, had four goals and six points in the terrific final series. Peddle, also facing the possibility that Sunday was his last time in a WHL sweater as an over-age player, had an assist on the Rachinski goal and finished with seven points. Winger T.J. Foster, the third member of the line, ripped one off the post in the first period, then blew one past Mac Carruth in the second to make it 4-0.
Portland’s Sven Baertschi finished with nine points in the series, but Rachinski and Peddle actually outscored Ty Rattie, the other Portland first-liner who missed a game after crashing head first into the boards in Game 1. Rattie, robbed by final series MVP Laurent Brossoit late in the first, just before Tyler Maxwell made it 2-0, had four points. Marcel Noebbels, the No. 1 centre, had six points.
“So did you ever think you’d be here now (with the Ed Chynoweth trophy as WHL champs)?” somebody asked Rachinski.
“If you’d asked me last night, I’d have said ‘Yeah.’ If you’d asked me two years ago, I’d have told you to go jump in a lake.”
“I mean, this could have been my last game and Jordan’s last game and (fellow overage Tyler) Maxwell’s last junior game. You want to go out with a bang.”
“We talked about our depth before the series started,” said Oil Kings general manager Bob Green, who first listed Rachinski on his organizational chart in 2007. “And the guys like Rhett and Jordan (and Foster) were part of it. Rhett was a checker at the stat of the year but he still scored 27 goals. That line gave us a ton of energy. They scored ugly goals, greasy goals .”
Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal applauded Rachinski, Peddle and Foster. They had acres of trouble with Baertschi in the first five games when he scored a whopping seven goals, but they stifled him in the last two.
“Hats off to them. You win with your checkers in the playoffs,” said Laxdal. “When checkers play against an offensive line, they’re going to get opportunities. When you get them, you have to make sure you make them count and break their backs.”
Rachinski, who got the overtime winner in Game 4 in Portland to tie the series 2-2, opened the scoring with his fourth goal in the series. He hung around the blue paint and banged it past Carruth to get the 12,514 fans into the game.
“Got a couple of cracks at it, and whacked it until it went in,” said Rachinski.
Foster hadn’t had a point in the series, beat Carruth on a two-on-one with Peddle. At game’s end, Portland’s feisty Brad Ross showed his frustration by fighting with the pacifistic Foster. “It was an emotional series and I know Brad … I played with him when I was younger. That’s the way he is,” said Foster.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how I feel. I’m almost speechless. I don’t know to do,” said Foster, eventually rushing over to be in the team picture on the ice.
The 2007 second-round WHL bantam draft who is from Slave Lake, had a large booster club of hometown fans in the seats at Rexall Place.
“It was awful what happened there (a year ago) but it’s amazing how the community pulled together,” said Foster, who soldiered through 269 league games as one of Green’s building blocks before the finished product as WHL champions.
Peddle, who came to the Oil Kings in October from Mark Lamb’s Swift Current Broncos, was dynamite the entire series.
“There’s no better feeling right now … I played my whole junior career to do this,” said Peddle, who had angels on his shoulders as did Rachinski.
Everything they touched seemed to go in or was close.
“I can’t say enough about Rhett. Like the first goal … the puck goes over to him, he gets three chances at it, the puck bounces up in the air, the goalie’s down, I’m laying in the crease and the puck winds up in the net. Good things happen to good, hard-working players,” said Peddle.
“Being an Edmonton kid, I can’t begin to tell you how good this feels. I didn’t have the Oil Kings to look up to as a kid (they didn’t come back as an expansion team until five years ago) but the crowd tonight, the atmosphere, being in Game 7 … coming together when he had to. I mean it wasn’t easy getting back on the plane (after the 3-2 loss in Portland Saturday) and we had some nerves, but we couldn’t write it any better than we did,” said Rachinski.
ON THE BENCH: Al Hamilton was on the 1966 Oil Kings Memorial Cup champs and now his son Steve, Laxdal’s assistant, is going … Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar took a forearm in the face from Portland defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon as he was down on his knees along the boards in the first period that the referees somehow overlooked. Same with Mitch Moroz’s elbow to Joe Morrow’s kisser by the benches in the first two minutes of the game.
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