The Portland Winterhawks are the local major-junior hockey team, and played in the Memorial Cup championship game today.
Not because they’re a bad team. You have to win your league championship to get invited to the Cup. The ‘Hawks are in fact a very good team. They’ve made the post-season each of the last four years, losing in the finals in 2011 and 2012, and winning the championship this year. During the current season, they destroyed the Western Hockey League, losing only 15 games out of 72, and nearly doubling their opponents goals. Their opponents call them the ‘Evil Empire’, and only partly due to some administrative infractions, but mostly because they play like a team possessed.
The ‘Hawks got out of Cup round-robin play in position to play the London (Ont.) Knights in the semi-final on 24 May. The game was very good, with both teams evenly matched, and play was intense. The ‘Hawks finally pulled the game out on a Ty Rattie goal at 8:32 in the third period. But that game was only a warmup for the final.
In the first period of the final, the ‘Hawks went down 3 – 0, and it was all Halifax, all the time. Whatever Portland coach Travis Green said during the first intermission, worked, because Portland came out onto the ice in the second period with blood in their eye. Portland scored two goals, and a third was ruled a goal on the ice, but overturned on review. The second intermission was extended by Cup activities on the ice, and the announcers, never a dispassionate crew, became more frustrated as the delay wore on. All the momentum the ‘Hawks took into the locker room was draining away.
The third period was pure hockey heaven. The refs let the teams play: there was only one penalty called in the period. Halifax scored two goals in the first 12 minutes, and Portland answered with two of their own in the next seven. The ‘Hawks kept the puck in the attacking zone, and two shots clanged off the pipes. With a minute and a half to play, Green pulled the goalie for a sixth attacker. Less than thirty seconds from the end of regulation, a puck got away, and was put into the empty net by Moosehead Nathan McKinnon, giving him a hat trick.
Even in the loss, the Winterhawks played the type of game that’s given them wide support in the Portland area. An aggressive, attacking style, an unmatched work ethic, and a never-say-die attitude. They’re fun to watch. A far cry from the 2006 – 2009 period when they were the doormats of the league. Some of the stars will be lost to the NHL next year, but I expect many enjoyable moments at Memorial Coliseum.
A tip of the toque, Winterhawks.
From the Wikipedia article on the ‘Rape of Nanking‘, we get ‘historicity’. I can only guess that this is a portmanteau of ‘historic authenticity’. I think I’ll pass on using this one.