Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Edmonton Oil Kings, Portland Winterhawks reconvene for WHL final, but has the tide turned?

For the first time in two generations of Western Hockey League finals, there's a chance for the sequel to match the original. The rematch that has been anticipated since May 13, 2012 when the Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Portland Winterhawks in Game 7 for the Ed Chynoweth Cup is set after the Oil Kings, behind Laurent Brossoit's fifth shutout of the post-season and a pair of goals from Michael St. Croix, ground out a 2-0 Game 7 shutout win over the Calgary Hitmen in the Eastern Conference final.

Edmonton, which lost captain Griffin Reinhart for the season during the series and was also without overage wing Trevor Cheek on Monday, might well have got past Calgary simply because it expected to win. The Oil Kings had their erratic moments during the series, particularly when they did not close out the Hitmen in Game 6 on Sunday after taking a two-goal lead into the final 20 minutes. Their power play also finished the series mired in an 0-for-20 drought. That could just be regression after they lit up Calgary's penalty kill earlier in the series, but it's an area of concern going into a final against Portland, which has the most efficient PP (28.7 per cent) of any team that advanced past the first round and is also first on the PK (91.8%).

The serious analysis is better left to BTN's WHL crews. Point being, it's a matchup of the Winterhawks' swagger vs. Edmonton's experience.

Each team is stingier than it was a season ago. The largest change in the Winterhawks from 2012 to '13 is the considerable presence of top draft prospect Seth Jones, AKA The One-Man Breakout (stick tap to Jacob Trouba, with an assist to TSN's Craig Button). Jones might have a lot to do with whether Portland can suppress the Oil Kings' forecheck and create more zone time for the likes of the Nic Petan-Brendan Leipsic-Ty Rattie line. Portland has also cut its penalties down by more than one per game in these playoffs, allowing 3.3 power plays on compared to 4.4 in 2012.

There is much to discuss. A rematch in May is a rare treat. There's no knowing for sure about motivation, but Portland is hardly reticent about showing its.

For the record, Oil Kings acting captain Keegan Lowe did not touch the Eastern Conference trophy.

The last time two teams met in successful WHL finals was in 1975 and '76, when the New Westminster Bruins defeated the Saskatoon Blades twice in a row.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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