Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa McRitchie on 09/15/11 at 04:00 AM ET
“Every game against Calgary is a big game” Philippe Cornet wearing an ‘A’ told Edmonton Oilers’ Tom Gazzola from the bench prior to the game. I find it interesting that the Oilers’ prospects buy into the Alberta rivalry so soon, in fact before they even reach the big club. However, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t care if it’s Calgary firemen vs. Edmonton in a chili cook-off contest, in my world, Edmonton needs to win every time. So, imagine how that carries forward at least for me when it comes to the Oilers versus the Flames, even the baby Oilers. That is why I went to bed with a broken heart Wednesday night.
As the Oilers seem to love their Swedish prospects, the Flames seem to love their Finnish goaltenders. Starting in this game was Finnish goaltender Joni Ortio. Ortio didn’t seem to be challenged as much as Oilers starting goaltender, and camp invitee Adam Brown of the Kelowna Rockets. Through the first period, the Flames owned the scoreboard, 2-0 with a powerplay and full strength goal. The Oilers appeared tired, sometimes out muscled and often as though they had put too much thought into this game. With Cornet’s pre-game comments, you can’t help but wonder if the players felt that it all boiled down to this game. It shouldn’t have, but knowing the history of these two teams and the rivalry between them is easily the first thing that European prospects learn and anyone who grew up in Canada already knew about.
The second period saw the Oilers come to life; whatever speech was given during intermission seemed to have calmed nerves. Tyler Pitlick got the period’s only goal, despite the Oilers managing 10 shots, doubling the Flames’ 5.
The final frame was by far the most exciting if you like to see goals and tight hockey games. The Oilers and Flames traded goals with Sven Baertschi scoring a Flames power play goal, Anton Lander getting the Oilers back to within one, Lance Bouma netted another one for the Flames and finally Martin Marincin closed out the scoring and kept the Oilers within one.
The Calgary Flames’ prospect team holds more AHL players than the Oilers, but that can’t be seen as the reason the Oilers lost. Although it was slightly disappointing that the Oilers didn’t sweep their games, this is just a prospects tournament, not even pre-season. It was just nice to be able to watch hockey again and also to see so many Oilers’ prospects playing together.
Drew Czerwonka and Tyler Pitlick look as though their play has really developed over the past year. Czerwonka and the Kootenay Ice took the WHL title and made a solid run for the Memorial Cup, so had a short off-season this year, but he looks eager to get his next season started.
Tyler Pitlick will be interesting to watch in Oklahoma City this season. Going forward, he is exactly the type of player that the Oilers will need. He is a big right handed centreman, someone that the Oilers will continue to look back on and wonder how they lucked out and selected in the second round.
Anton Lander didn’t beat his friend Magnus Paajarvi who got a hat trick last year, but he did get three goals through two games. Lander will be at the Oilers training camp, and will likely start the year in Oklahoma City. This will not be the last that Oilers fans will hear of this Swede.
Although I don’t expect this game to be as difficult to be last season in terms of writing up games and looking for positives, there will still be games that will be difficult. This one was too bad, but it still stings trying to look for the positives through losses. Thankfully, this was far from a blowout. A one goal lost is extremely respectable and of course close. There will be far more battle of Alberta’s this year.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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