The Edmonton Oil Kings may be happy just to be participating in the Memorial Cup, but the team is going to push for every win they can get.
In the opening game of the tournament Friday night, the Oil Kings blew a 2 goal lead, but eventually squeaked past the home team Shawinigan Cataractes with a final score of 4-3. Not bad considering Shawinigan is not as battle weary as the Oil Kings. While the Oil Kings had only a few days to bounce back from their 7 game series against the Portland Winterhawks, the Cataractes have not played a playoff game since losing to the Chicoutimii Saguenéens a month ago.
Edmonton Oil Kings’ captain, and Buffalo Sabres prospect defenceman Mark Pysyk has been named the WHL player of the week on Monday.
Pysyk’s late game heroics Thursday night saw the Oil Kings take a 3-2 series lead when Pysyk scored with less than a minute on the clock in what may have been the most important game of the series for the Oil Kings. Had the Oil Kings fallen 3-2 to the Winterhawks and had to play catchup and win the final two games, this may have been a different series entirely.
It was a long road and a hard fought battle, but with their 4-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks in front of 12514 fans, the Edmonton Oil Kings have earned their first modern franchise trip to the Memorial Cup.
In this year’s Memorial Cup the WHL champions, the Oil Kings will face off against the QMJHL champions the Saint John Sea Dogs , the OHL champs the London Knights and the host team the Shawnigan Cataractes of the QMJHL.
With Tuesday night’s 4-3 OT Oil Kings win, the best of 7 WHL finals series with the Portland Winterhawks is evenly split 2 and 2. Each team has won one home game and one road game, telling you that this series could certainly go either way.
Ryan Dittrick of EdmontonOilers.com was in Portland for game 4 and reports:
“What can you say? What a hockey game to coach,” said Head Coach Derek Laxdal. “Both teams going at it back-and-forth like a heavyweight bout. It’s good to tie the series 2-2 instead of going back home down 3-1. Now it’s a three-game series. It’s been a great series so far and I don’t expect anything less Thursday night.
“We were one player short with the suspension (to Henrik Samuelsson), and I thought our guys gave it a gutsy effort right from the get go. Even though we let them back in the game at 3-3, I thought our guys hung in there and found some energy. It was an incredible game by both teams.”
“It wasn’t exactly the way we wanted to win the game, giving up a two-goal lead in the third period,” Rachinski added. “But we hung in there—they brought it pretty hard and we were able to weather the storm.
“[The puck] ended up hitting their D man and it popped right to me. I saw an opportunity to shoot. I didn’t even see it go in, but once I saw the reaction from the guys, it was a pretty special feeling.”
Hearing the pleas of the families in Edmonton, the Oil Kings have reduced ticket prices for the upper bowl seats for game 5 in Rexall Place. You can purchase $20 tickets (plus $2.75 service fee) through Ticketmaster to see what may be the Oil Kings final home game.
The WHL season is not quite finished, but most of the hardware has already been awarded. Wednesday afternoon the WHL held their awards luncheon in Calgary where the Edmonton Oil Kings and Oiler prospect Tyler Bunz all walked away happy. Bunz took home the WHL goaltender of the year award, the Oil Kings were named the scholastic team of the year and Oil Kings’ GM Bob Green was named WHL Executive of the Year the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy.
The Edmonton Oil Kings are still alive and well in this year’s WHL playoffs, but the Oilers have decided not to wait and to sign left winger Kristians Pelss to a 3 year deal.
Pelss was a 7th round draft 2010 draft pick who has helped take the Oil Kings to the WHL finals (which will begin Thursday night in Edmonton) with his scoring and defensive abilities. Pelss may not have led the team in scoring, but finishing 6th in points and 5th in goals on a team with as much depth and talent as the Oil Kings have is quite the accomplishment.
It was great while it lasted. More than great, it was nearly record setting but most importantly it was an Edmonton sports team garnering positive national attention.
The Edmonton Oil Kings had not lost a game since February 22nd when the team fell 6-4 to the Kootenay Ice, a streak that lasted 22 games and was enough to earn the boys mention by a Bob Mackenzie tweet. Because all of the Oil Kings are avid hockey fans with NHL dreams the tweet seemed to excite many players more than the 22nd win itself. But all of that came to an end Wednesday night when the Oil Kings dropped a 5-1 decision to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Oil Kings beat Wheat Kings 2-1
After sweeping the Kootenay Ice in the first round of the WHL playoffs, the Oil Kings had a relaxing 8 days to prepare for their next opponents, the Brandon Wheat Kings. Going into game one the biggest question was of course, would the time off hurt or help the team’s momentum. After one game, it doesn’t appear to have hurt the team in the slightest. Speaking with the players, they seemed grateful for the break and considering how hard they worked to finish first overall in their conference it seems to make good sense.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has recently put in a bid to acquire an 8th NHL team in Canada. While some immediately brush the idea off, there are many who believe that this could work. None seem to be following this topic as closely as the StarPhoenix. The reason for that is clear once you realize that the StarPhoenix is not an Arizona product, but rather a Saskatoon paper.
Thursday morning, Les MacPherson has penned an article indicating that an NHL club may struggle to fill the local barn:
In a city that aspires to the National Hockey League, I would have expected more than 4,825 patrons the other night at a Saskatoon Blades playoff game.
This is only the best junior hockey in the world. If the Blades can’t draw 5,000 to a playoff game, how is the NHL going to draw 15,000 for 40 nights a year with ticket prices four or five times as high?
I just don’t see it happening, at least not anytime soon.
Oil Kings beat Rebels 5-2
A game that features two top ten prospects going into this year’s NHL entry draft is enough to garner attention. A Friday night WHL game featuring two top ten prospects in Red Deer is enough to attract a circus. As the scouts poured into the building, some wearing the logos of their teams, others merely with their clipboards and pens the importance of these final games became even more apparent. While the Oil Kings’ have five players that will likely be drafted this summer, it is Griffin Reinhart who has stolen the spotlight. For the Rebels, the feature player is of course Mat Dumba.
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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