by Jess Rubenstein

There are times when some games should have ended in a tie and the game between the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks was one of those. The rule is no cheering in the press box but sometimes you want to break the rules.

This was the only regular season meeting between these 2 teams but the signs are all there that they will meet again in the WHL Finals. This was a great game with some great future NHL players showing off their stuff.

Portland struck first scoring a power play goal by Nick Petan at the 7:00 mark of a great feed from Ty Rattie. Rattie played this game like his life depended on it and I disagree with the stars handed out as I would have given Rattie the first star because he was the player who made Portland go on offense.

Portland got a break that was more like justice when the Oil King's Henrik Samuelsson was ejected for spearing Ty Rattie. Yes the son of Ulfie showed he was his father's son and the son deserved the ejection and any suspension that will go along with it.

Portland lost 2 minutes of the major penalty because Rattie responded to what Samuelsson did but one can't blame him as it was a dirty cheap play along the bench area. I wonder if Rattie had not responded with as much anger as he did would Samuelsson been able to get away with it.

It was right in front of me and it was sneaky as it was dirty; a play that has no business in hockey at all. Rattie getting angry like he did in my eyes forced the officials to talk it over and make the right call.

Portland though took a 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission but Portland hurt themselves by 2 players taking roughing minors at the 20:00 mark. That took away 2 more minutes of their 5 minute power play reducing it to just 1 minute.

If Portland had been better able to control their emotions then the outcome of this game might have been different.

In the 2nd, Edmonton got the goal back 20 seconds after the 1 minute power play had ended. Edmonton moved the puck around until it found itself on the stick of Travis Ewanyk who got it past Portland goalie Mac Carruth.

Portland would regain the lead thanks to a 2nd power play goal again set up by Ty Rattie who fed Portland's captain Troy Rutkowski right in the slot area to make it 2-1 Portland. Taylor Leier a Flyers pick would give Portland a 3-1 lead at 16:05 and it really looked like Portland was going to walk away with this one.

But in the last minute Edmonton (sorry folks) thanks to a missed offsides call would score with 3.2 seconds to pull within 1 goal. This clearly was the turning point because Portland got the bad end of this call.

Edmonton got all the emotion while Portland lost theirs and that would be key. In the 3rd, Edmonton came out carrying the play to the Winterhawks. Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) would set up linemate Travis Cheek for the tying goal at 1:23 of the 3rd period.

After that the 3rd period belonged to the Oil Kings who would have blown Portland out if Portland's goalie Mac Carruth was not stopping everything shot at him as Edmonton outshot Portland 17-6. Portland just could not recover from the last second goal in the 2nd.

Michael St. Croix did what he does best and that is scoring power play goals and with just 1:03 left in regulation; St. Croix deflected a shot from Dylan Wruck that Carruth had no chance on. It was the game winner and I think even St. Croix was surprised that it went in.

Now Portland fans were upset over the penalty call on Tyler Wotherspoon at 18:43 but really their anger is misplaced. Yes I think they got jobbed on the 2nd Edmonton goal (the missed offsides) but they still had a lead.

Edmonton was able to contain Ty Rattie in the 3rd but where were his teammates? I like the Winterhawks when they are not playing against teams with Ranger or Islander prospects on them.

The problem I had (as a Portland fan) was that Seth Jones did not rise to the occasion. Sorry Seth but this was a game where you needed to step up, you needed to put the team on your back and score that big goal.

This is not a tournament where you get another crack at them; Portland needed to send Edmonton a message tonight but the message was sent by Edmonton. They now believe they can come into Portland and win.

Portland got nothing with the exception of the Leier goal from their 2nd line while Edmonton got contributions from their top 3 lines.

The numbers part- St. Croix a 2nd star on a 1-1-2 evening which included his 33rd goal (WHL leading 19th power play) and his 46th assist for his team leading 79th point (9th in WHL). Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) no points but I counted 35 shifts including 6 penalty kills and 2 power plays.

Reinhart is way taller in person but when he fills out the Islanders will have a monster defender.

I had a chance to talk with Michael St. Croix postgame and Ranger fans will really like his attitude as yes I key on his offensive numbers but he is also stronger on face offs then I realized. Needs muscle everywhere on his body but loved watching his growth over last year.

One thing I liked that Edmonton did with St. Croix is that they kept moving him around trying to confuse Portland. A shift on the LW, then one at center or maybe one on the right side. It was a very interesting use of St. Croix by his coach Derek Laxdal.