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Winterhawks claim fourth consecutive WHL West title

Portland will have home-ice advantage in league final


For the fourth year in a row, the Portland Winterhawks are Western Hockey League Western Conference champions.

The Hawks beat the Kelowna Rockets 7-3 Friday night at Kelowna to win the West finals 4 games to 1.

Portland will play for the league title, with home-ice advantage.

Edmonton, which leads Medicine Hat 3-1, can clinch the East crown with a victory Saturday night at home.

The Winterhawks advanced with four consecutive wins, after dropping their series opener 5-4 at Kelowna.

The Game 5 victory came thanks to a couple of scoring surges. Portland tallied the first three goals, then ripped off four unanswered goals after the Rockets had closed to within 3-2 in the second period.

Brendan Leipsic scored two goals on Friday, Oliver Bjorkstrand had three assists, Taylor Leier had a goal and two assists, Nic Petan and Derrick Pouliot each had two assists, and Keegan Iverson, Chase De Leo and Dominic Turgeon each had a goal and an assist in a balanced, full display of Winterhawks offense.

Corbin Boes picked up the win, making 35 saves, as the Hawks outshot the Rockets 41-38.

Only three other WHL teams have reached four straight conference championship series: the Flin Flon Bombers in 1968-71, the Edmonton Oil Kings in 1969-72 and the New Westminster Bruins in 1975-78.

Pouliot, who played in a team-record 78th WHL playoff game on Friday, has had at least one point in all 14 of Portland's postseason games this season. So has Leipsic.

Turgeon gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead at 13:12 of the first period. Leipsic's power-play goal at 15:45 boosted the Portland lead to 2-0, and Leier scored on a power play 24 seconds into the second period for a 3-0 edge.

Kelowna answered with two power-play goals to get within 3-2 midway through the middle stanza.

Portland defenseman Mathew Dumba scored 59 seconds into the final period, though, and Leipsic struck again on a power play at 2:58 for a 5-2 lead.

Then it was De Leo scoring at 6:33 and Iverson finding the net at 8:22.

Kelowna scored the game's final goal at 11:27 of the third period.