For the fourth consecutive year, the Portland Winterhawks are the Western Hockey League's Western Conference champions.
The Hawks captured the conference title and their fourth straight trip to the WHL Final with a 7-3 win in Kelowna over the Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference championship series.
The Winterhawks become just the fourth team in league history to appear in four consecutive championship series, joining the Flin Flon Bombers (1968-71) the original Edmonton Oil Kings (1969-72), and the New Westminster Bruins (1975-78).
The Winterhawks now await the winner of the Eastern Conference Championship series, with the Edmonton Oil Kings leading the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-1. Game 5 of that series is tomorrow night. Regardless of who their opponent is, Portland will have home ice advantage in the final.
In addition to the conference title, defenseman Derrick Pouliot played in his 78th career playoff game Friday, passing Troy Rutkowski for the team record. And with he and Brendan Leipsic each hitting the scoresheet, they both have points in all 14 playoff games this season.
The Hawks struck first when Dominic Turgeon scored 13:12 into the opening period for a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later with Portland on a power play, Brendan Leipsic took a cross-ice pass and fired a one-timer through the five-hole of Kelowna goaltender Jordon Cooke at the 15:45 mark for a 2-0 lead the Hawks took into the second period.
Just 24 seconds into the second, Taylor Leier banged in a rebound for a 3-0 Hawks lead. The Rockets got on the board at the 8:29 mark when Tyson Baillie scored with a man advantage to cut the Hawks' lead to 3-1, then scored another power play goal just over two minutes later when a Jesse Lees marker made it 3-2, which remained the scoring going into the third.
Any hope the Rockets had of completing the comeback were dashed early in the third when Portland exploded for four goals in the first half of the period. Matt Dumba scored 59 seconds into the frame, followed by a power play goal from Leipsic at the 2:56 mark as the Hawks jumped out to a 5-2 advantage.
The Hawks wouldn't let up, and Chase De Leo made it a 6-2 game with a goal at the 6:33 mark, followed by a Keegan Iverson goal at the 8:22 mark to push it to 7-2. Kelowna got one back at the 11:27 mark on a goal by Justin Kirkland to make it 7-3, which stood as the final.
Taylor Leier and Oliver Bjorkstrand each had three points in the win.
Corbin Boes had the win in net with 28 saves on 31 shots. Cooke took the loss with seven goals allowed on 41 Portland shots.
Release from Portland Winterhawks.