by Lisa Brown on 02/25/12 at 06:00 AM ET
Oil Kings beat Hitmen 4-1
It may have seemed like a blue moon ago that Travis Ewanyk last skated for the Edmonton Oil Kings, but it was on Lunar Celebration night in the Saddledome that Ewanyk played his first game since being drafted. Ewanyk underwent shoulder surgery shortly before the season began and although he has been skating with his team for a few weeks, a game is a different matter entirely.
After the Edmonton Oilers beat the Calgary Flames 6-1 Tuesday, the WHL battle of Alberta has given Edmonton the upper hand… at least temporarily.
Travis Ewanyk’s first shift of the 2011-12 season
It was the hometown Hitmen who struck first, just 1:58 into the game when Brady Brassart beat Oil Kings netminder Laurent Brossoit. “I thought we came out with a lot of jump today and they responded pretty quick” Brossoit commented. “I think we just let our foot off the gas and played a little timid.”
There were three Oilers prospects on the ice for the Oil Kings with the return of Ewanyk, the other two of course being Kristians Pelss and Martin Gernat.
It’s hard to believe that Oilers’ prospect Kristians Pelss is seventh in Oil Kings scoring after watching him earn his team’s equalizing goal. Martin Gernat made a crisp pass from the boards to the perfectly possitioned Pelss, directly in front of the Hitmen’s net. Pelss made no mistake hammering the puck past the shoulder of Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger.
There was only a single goal scored during the second period, and once again it was Pelss who made the goal possible. Pelss passed from the hashmarks to Tristan Siebian who was positioned in front of the net. Siebian deked to the backhand and went five hole making it a 2-0 Oil Kings game.
“It was a good game for me and the team too. Both teams played well and both goaltenders played well. Exciting game to watch,” Pelss said of his team’s efforts. Pelss is currently fifth for goals on the Oil Kings stats sheet, despite scoring 3 goals and 2 assists in his past two outings.
Oil King T.J. Foster would score his 24th goal of the year on the Hitmen’s empty net, and Rhett Rachinski would round out the game’s scoring. Hitmen goaltender Driedger was on his way to the bench when the Oil Kings raced into the offensive zone. Diving to cover his net, Driedger was just a little too late and with 4 seconds left to play, this game was over.
“It’s great to be back and to get a win, you couldn’t ask for more. It was like Christmas morning” said Oil Kings centreman Ewanyk who won faceoffs, made and took hits and played a complete game. Although it has been nearly a nine months since Ewanyk last played a game, he hasn’t missed a step and will have the advantage of being the most rested and healthy player going into the WHL playoffs.
Defenceman Martin Gernat is still leading Oil Kings defencemen with 46 points, with only one assist added from this game. “It was a good start for us, and we all played 60 minutes, all of us” Gernat explained. Even better for Gernat, his team was not continually on the penalty kill as with the previous loss to the Hitmen. Gernat continues to show why the Oilers selected the young defenceman, playing an offensively minded game and making few defensive mistakes. There are some nights where Gernat has a few too many turnovers, but this was not one of them. This is still only Gernat’s first season playing North American hockey, and he will not turn 19 until November. Given a few more years of development, Gernat could be a top four defenceman. And this is something the Oilers will need.
The Oil Kings did have a four minute penalty kill in the third period when Rhett Rachinski received a hi-sticking penalty after the infraction drew blood. “It was important when we got a four minute penalty because he was bleeding and I think that we played a good game. It was important for us.”
For Hitmen head coach Mike Sillinger, it was disappointing to see his team put an end to their four game winning streak, especially when his team only got four shots in the final frame. “Edmonton has a good hockey team obviously. We lost a lot of battles I thought, foot races to pucks that you just can’t afford to lose against a good team.
“There was some little things, traffic in front of the net and some urgency on our power play, some things like that that just didn’t come up for us tonight.”
The Hitmen are still very much alive in the push for the playoffs and will host the Kelowna Rockets Sunday afternoon. The same day up the road in Edmonton, the Oil Kings will host the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
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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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