EDMONTON — The Portland Winterhawks were down, but they were able to keep from going out.
Keegan Iverson scored the overtime winner as the Winterhawks erased a three-goal, third-period deficit to snap a three-game losing skid and defeat the Edmonton Oil Kings 6-5 on Sunday, sending the Western Hockey League championship to a seventh game.
Portland trailed 5-2, but battled back to tie the game. The Winterhawks completed the comeback when Iverson tipped a Dominic Turgeon shot past Edmonton goalie Tristan Jarry 7:23 into overtime.
“That’s definitely the biggest goal of my life,” Iverson said. “I was just in shock when I scored.
“It’s been such an unbelievable series. It’s been crazy. It’s going to be quite the final game.”
The seventh and deciding game of the WHL final will take place Monday in Portland.
Mathew Dumba had a pair of goals and Anton Cederholm, Keoni Texeira and Derrick Pouliot also scored for the Winterhawks, who had dropped three straight after owning a 2-0 advantage to start the best-of-seven finals.
Prior to the three losses in the finals, the Winterhawks had only lost three games in their previous 45 outings.
“We knew we just had to stick with it,” said Portland head coach Mike Johnston. “We have the ability to score and have built that confidence throughout the year. Our guys were great. They played through it. It was a great character win. It’s unusual to look at a scoresheet and see five defencemen scoring like we had tonight.”
Dumba credited goalie Corbin Boes, who was pulled after the first period, for firing the team up before the comeback.
“He gave one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever heard,” Dumba said. “He stood up like a 20-year-old should and made a great speech. He said he had never been on a team that is so tightly-knit like this and he wanted to keep it going. He believed in all of us and he got really emotional and I think it hit home with all of us. Just talking about it now gives me chills.”
Henrik Samuelsson and Edgars Kulda each had two-goal games and Curtis Lazar also scored for the Oil Kings, who lost for the first time at home in the playoffs, dropping to 10-1.
“It’s the old story, you have to play 60 minutes and we played about 35 before we sat back a bit,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “It is what it is. We are headed to a Game 7. It didn’t look very good for us coming back from being down 2-0 in the series and our mindset has to be that we will take another chance to win this tomorrow.”
Edmonton captain Griffin Reinhart agreed that his team missed out on an opportunity, but can take solace in having one more chance.
“We got the lead and were maybe a little bit too comfortable,” he said. “We played not to lose rather than to win. It is a tough loss, but tomorrow is a new day and we have to bounce back.
“I think our adrenaline is going to be big tomorrow. It’s a seven-game series for a reason.”
Ten WHL finals have gone to a seventh game, and not one has been captured by the visiting team.
Edmonton carried over the momentum from their previous three wins to get off to a great start in front of a WHL playoff-high crowd of 11,902 at Rexall Place.
The Oil Kings took a 1-0 lead five minutes into the first period with a power-play goal. A Dysin Mayo shot hit Mitch Moroz on the way to the net and Samuelsson was able to poke his seventh of the playoffs past Boes.
Samuelsson notched his second goal of the game 1:26 later as Moroz forced a turnover deep in Portland territory and sent it across the ice. Samuelsson blasted the puck off of Boes’ glove and in to put the Oil Kings up 2-0.
Edmonton took a three-goal advantage with 51 seconds remaining in the first period as Kulda’s shot found its way through a maze of players and into the Portland net.
Brendan Burke came in to replace Boes in the Portland net to start the second period.
Portland got on the board less than four minutes into the second as Dumba’s point blast beat Jarry on a 5-on-3 man advantage. The Winterhawks made it 3-2 with seven minutes left in the second as Cederholm came down the left side and picked the top corner with a wrist shot.
Just 45 seconds after Portland’s goal, Edmonton’s Reid Petryk picked off a pass and sent a backhander to Lazar, and the Ottawa Senators prospect scored his ninth of the playoffs. Less than a minute later, Edmonton made it 5-2 as Mayo made a long lead pass to give Kulda a breakaway, and he beat Burke stick side for his second of the game.
The Winterhawks cut Edmonton’s lead to two goals again with Dumba’s second goal, also on the power play goal three minutes into the third.
Portland made it 5-4 with 14 minutes remaining as De Leo put a puck on net and Texeira got it under Jarry and into the net.
The Hawks tied the game with just under nine minutes left as Pouliot blew the puck past Jarry to eventually send the game to overtime.
Notes: It’s the third consecutive season that the Oil Kings and Winterhawks have met in the WHL Championship Series. Edmonton defeated Portland in seven games to win in 2012, while Portland won in six games last year. a It is just the second time in league history that two teams have met in the WHL final three years in a row. The last time was when the original Edmonton Oil Kings (who ended up moving to Portland to become the Winterhawks) played the Flin Flon Bombers three times from 1969-71.