The competition of the WHL’s Central Division has been heating up as of late. The Edmonton Oil Kings continue to put up record numbers and separate themselves from the rest of the pack and at the same time, the interdivisional games become even more valuable as teams gear up to win home ice advantage.
Sunday afternoon was another Central Division matchup when the Calgary Hitmen Hosted the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels for a second year in a row are of particular interest to Oilers fans due to a young defenceman from Calgary by the name of Mathew Dumba.
For the Edmonton Oilers, goaltending continues to be an issue if not a major concern. When this season began, it appeared as though Nikolai Khabibulin was back to his prime and that Devan Dubnyk was ready to make the next step. Now, as the season has progressed, neither Dubnyk nor Khabibulin looks as steady, but they do still have great games from time to time.
What may be of little comfort to Oilers fans is that the Oilers may have the “real deal” waiting and developing in the WHL. For many however, Bunz is one of most exciting prospects in the Oilers’ system. After all, Bunz can be a real game changer. The best part of that of course being that Tyler Bunz was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Round. Everyone loves an underdog story.
All good things have to come to an end, including winning streaks. Wednesday night, The Calgary Hitmen’s winning streak had to end at 8 after an emotional 5-1 loss to central division rivals the Medicine Hat Tigers. With a total of 8 fighting majors, 114 penalty minutes and 33 infractions, both penalty boxes could have used revolving doors.
The Eastern Conference leaders, the Edmonton Oil Kings, came into Calgary to challenge a team riding a six game winning streak. You must also remember that despite the fact that this is WHL hockey, this is still very much a battle of Alberta. It doesn’t matter how long a player has been with their team, they know that the rivalry is very real. And as such, this was anyone’s game.
Edmonton Oil King and Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Kristians Pelss was named the Team Captain for his country, Latvia in the 2012 IIHF World Juniors Tournament. For Pelss, being the team captain, the only player drafted into the NHL, a player currently playing in Alberta, and one of the few players on the team that speaks English fluently made him a very popular man with the media. With every loss, Pelss had to field more questions than any of his teammates. And although the weight of the world looked to be on his shoulders, Pelss handled it all with grace and strength.
This wasn’t the medal that team Canada wanted to play for, but this is the game they ended their tournament with. Despite strong play through their preliminary round, the loss to Russia Tuesday night was the most significant game of the tournament. For Finland, losing is never easy, but losing to Canada in Canada only increased the focus on their loss. Not that a 4-0 loss wouldn’t draw enough attention as it was.
An even dozen, that’s how many goals Team USA managed to score Tuesday against Latvia, after a lackluster preliminary round for both teams.
For the both teams, this game was as much about pride as it was securing a position in this tournament for next year. Now, Latvia has one more game and nothing to lose.
Although the IIHF World Juniors tournament is not an NHL tournament, there are several players in the tournament who have been drafted by NHL teams. For many NHL fans, this is the only opportunity to see many of the prospects in action. Of course this is still a competitive tournament and an excellent opportunity to see the world’s best junior hockey players on display.
Here is a look at how the NHL prospects have done so far at this tournament. All stats were taken from the IIHF team statistics pages.
Neither team had the start to this game that they wanted, but Slovakia certainly found the finish. In what has been the most exciting hockey game in the Pool A preliminaries, Slovakia found the will and the way to come back from a deficit and score three goals in 3:01. Simply incredible.
In front of the Calgary crowd of 12 598 on the second day of competition, it was the goaltenders for both Latvia and Slovakia that defined the game. Kristers Gudlevskis stopping 42 or 44 shots faced was named player of the game for Latvia and Jurjaj Simboch turned away 25 of 26 shots on goal to be named player of the game for Slovakia.
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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