by Lisa McRitchie on 01/16/12 at 01:00 AM ET
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.
With less than 24 hours on the clock between games for the Edmonton Oil Kings, this game was going to be much more of a challenge for the Oil Kings and something that the Hitmen would hope to capitalize on. Saturday night, the Oil Kings beat the Kootenay Ice 3-2 in overtime and did not have the luxury of a charter jet to get the team to Calgary for their next game.
Tired or not, the Oil Kings were first on the board despite being doubled up on the shot clock, with an even strength goal by Tyler Maxwell. The goal was assisted by Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Martin Gernat playing defence once more on the left side after moving to the right for Team Slovakia at the World Juniors. This was Maxwell’s 24th goal of the season and his 13th in his 20 games with the Oil Kings since being traded from the Everett Silvertips. As impressive as 24 goals is, it doesn’t even make Maxwell the team’s leading scorer. Instead the undrafted Maxwell is a goal behind Michael St. Croix.
Calgary kept on the attack and was rewarded with three goals in a row all in the second period; two by Winnipeg Jets’ prospect Jimmy Bubnick and one on the power play from Calder Brooks, his fourth in his first year in the WHL.
Henrik Samuelsson made an impact in his first WHL battle of Alberta. Samuelsson in only his second Oil Kings game since coming to the WHL from the SEL junior league laid a crushing blow to Hitmen Spencer Humphries that sent the defenceman sprawling on the ice in the second period. The Hitmen are not likely to forget about number 10 Samuelsson in their next meeting less than a month from now. Especially not when the hit earned Samuelsson a charging major and a ten minute misconduct.
Edmonton would score only goal in the second period, an even strength goal by Mitchell Moroz. Moroz, the third star of the game scored his tenth of the year, energizing his team who were finally catching up in shots. By the end of the second period, the Oil Kings were trailing 16 to 27 in shots and 3 to 2 on the scoreboard.
The Oil Kings would score their third and tying goal off of a lazarbeam on the power play by Curtis Lazar, assists to Moroz and TJ Foster. But, that would be the final goal of the game by the Oil Kings.
With eight and a half minutes left in play, Hitmen Cody Sylvester would score the game winning goal, giving his team their seventh consecutive win.
“Sly (Sylvester) and Bubs (Bubnick) are both doing such a good job right now, leading by example.” Said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. “They are playing every shift so incredibly hard and that’s what you need from the older guys who are leaders. They obviously log a lot of ice time, they’re in key situations and that’s what you need from them.”
The Oil Kings, despite their best efforts came just short of a win. With fatigue from the previous night and players that are still recovering from the World Juniors tournament the team would take this loss especially hard.
For Gernat, who suffered a minor shoulder sprain in pre World Juniors Tournament action, and then played through the tournament, the three WHL games he sat out were difficult. Despite needing the time to rest and heal, Gernat wants to play and help his team. The juniors were after all a different game, “quicker and faster” according to the Slovakian defenceman and Gernat didn’t want to miss much more time from his WHL team.
Gernat earned an assist and while manning the point on the power play made the plays that led to the team’s third goal of the game, but that was not enough. Instead, Gernat was disappointed with his game, “I’m not happy with play. I made one mistake in front of the net on the PK and it was a goal after.” Gernat’s mistake may have indirectly led to the goal against, but this goal will haunt Gernat, spurring him to improve for his next game.
Griffin Reinhart did not play this game after facing both of his brothers who play for the the Kootenay Ice Saturday night in Edmonton. The reason for Reinhart’s absence is yet to be determined.
The 8, 459 hockey fans in attendance were treated to another edition of the WHL battle of Alberta, and the first of the season in Calgary. Hitmen hockey continues to be great entertainment value for young and old, but the Hitmen are really taking things up a notch in terms of fan interaction. At every game, a random child is selected to win a Kids Pack. In today’s package, a e-Reader something exciting for children and at the same time encouraging reading with youth. Following the game, the crowd was given the opportunity to skate with the home team on the Saddledome Ice, for some this will be their only chance to skate in an NHL arena.
The Hitmen will travel to Red Deer to face the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday night while the Oil Kings will travel back home to host the Martin Marincinless Prince George Cougars; Marincin was traded to the Regina Pats on WHL trade deadline day.
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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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