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Kootenay Ice are WHL Champions
The Kootenay Ice are going to the Memorial Cup as the WHL Champions. The team flooded on the ice at the Rose Garden in Portland Friday night after a 4-1 win over the Winterhawks in Game 5 as well as in the WHL Championship series to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
WHL Commissioner Ron Robinson presented the trophy to Kootenay Ice captain Brayden McNabb who handed it off to Ice president and GM Jeff Chynoweth. This was a special moment for Chynoweth as the cup was named for his father Ed who passed away in 2008 and played a huge role in the development of the Kootenay Ice, the WHL and hockey in general.
"It's tough to put in words," Chynoweth said just before the presentation of the trophy. He credited his coaching staff and leadership team for the success this season and emphasized everyone played a part, from the scouts to the office staff to of course the players.
This was the first season for Kris Knoblauch as the head coach of the Kootenay Ice after having been an assistant coach for three years. "This is pretty special to do this in my first year coaching," he said about the WHL Championship and thanked the club owners for their confidence.
Game 5 in Portland was the clearest win for the Ice in the entire series with the Winterhawks. The hosts went on the board first with a goal by Tyler Wotherspoon only 2:26 in the game, but that should be the only puck Kootenay netminder Nathan Lieuwen would let past him that night.
The equalizer for the Ice came just past the 15 minute mark of the first period, but was not announced until almost three minutes later when the play was stopped at the whistle. Video replay determined that a shot by Steele Boomer had in fact crossed the line before being cleared away by a Portland defenseman.
Just before the end of the second period, Matt Fraser scored the go-ahead goal for the Ice on the powerplay. He sealed the win with just over five minutes to go in the third with his 17th game of the playoffs, making him the WHL's leading goal scorer for the playoffs. The last goal came courtesy of Jesse Ismond, who had yet another great night with a goal and an assist.
With that much depth on the Kootenay Ice team, it was anyone's guess who would receive the honour of being named the playoff's Most Valuable Player. Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen's signature smile got just a little wider when WHL vice-president for hockey, Richard Doerksen presented him with the trophy.
"It could name anybody [on the team] and they could win this award," Lieuwen said modestly during the celebration on the ice in Portland. Everybody on the Ice emphasizes the great tema effort Kootenay has brought forward this season, but Jesse Ismond recognized the special importance of Lieuwen in goal. "It starts with him, it starts from the goalie out," he pointed out.