by Lisa Brown on 04/07/12 at 06:15 AM ET
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.
The Oil Kings outshot their opponents 47 to 29 through 60 minutes, but those Oil Kings totals may have been slightly deceiving. While the Oil Kings did control the puck and the speed of the game through most of the 60 minutes, they did not seem to have as many quality chances.
Still, for the Wheat Kings, the biggest reason they stayed in the game as much as they did was because of the outstanding reflexes of netminder Corbin Boes.
The Oil Kings did manage to beat Boes twice though, the first goal coming from Oiler prospect Kristians Pelss. While Pelss scored 5 game winning goals during the regular season and countless key game tying goals, he hasn’t skipped a beat when it comes to the playoffs. He may not lead his team in goals, but does have a game winning goal, and this game’s opening tally.
“Maxwell shot and I went to the net, it was a good rebound and I just went hard to the net and you know, scored.” Pelss said with an ear to ear grin following his team’s win.
When reminded of the significance of so many of his goals Pelss shrugs, “I’m just lucky or something, but I try to play hard and it’s rewarding.”
These goals certainly don’t come without cost however as Pelss seems to have a target on his back at most times. But it could also be Pelss’ drive for the net or his decisions to keep himself close to the net in case the puck just happens to bounce his way.
“I don’t think about it, and just play my game. I try not to push back [too much] and take penalties; I just play for my team.”
The Oil Kings’ second and game winning goal came from Dylan Wruck on the power play with the assist going to Oiler prospect Martin Gernat. This was Gernat’s first point of the playoffs and for an offensive defenceman like Gernat finally getting on the scoreboard is a huge relief.
“It was a really hard game [and because] it was the first game in the series it was an important win for us. Everyone is happy we won this game and hopefully we will continue with these results” Gernat explained. “I was really nervous [at the beginning of the playoffs] because it was the playoffs and it was my first in Canada. So it was really hard but after the second game I felt really good but my play wasn’t really good… I just didn’t make any really good moves.”
Gernat certainly made some good moves in this game however, finding his friend and teammate Pelss at just the right moment. It was a no look pass from Gernat that got Wruck on the scoreboard and although it looked as though it couldn’t have been planned this was just another example of Gernat’s great vision on the ice. “I thought that he [Wruck] would be up on the blue line, so I just passed blind and hopefully it was good [laughs] so I’m happy and we scored so it was good.”
It was good, as was the rest of Gernat’s first season with the Oil Kings. He does have the option that he could be moved to the AHL next season should the Oilers feel that he is ready for that next jump, but another year in junior may not hurt either. The Oil Kings would certainly love to have his scoring talents on the team for another year. “It was a really good rookie season for me here, but the start of the playoffs wasn’t really good” Gernat said and only because he didn’t score any points during the first round. “I want to play better in the games against Kootenay. But this series has started off pretty good and hopefully that will continue.”
Defenceman Brodie Melnychuk got the Wheat Kings on the board midway through the second period, but there would be no further scoring. The Oil Kings took an ill timed penalty when Keegan Lowe tipped the puck over the glass with a mere 17 seconds left to play, but the Wheat Kings couldn’t get anything past the Oil Kings’ outstanding Oil King Laurent Brossoit.
Shots on net was not an issue for the Oil Kings, but in the mind of head coach Derek Laxdal “The big thing for is make sure to work their defencemen down low and if we can utilize our team speed and we get into a cycle game and just find that effort and generate some chances but I thought that Bose was just outstanding making that first save.”
The first game of these series is often a chance for players to get to see what the other team is like, look for weaknesses and see how they respond to pressure. The second game, Saturday night could be far more physical and heated. Going into the next game, Laxdal knows that keeping his team composed will be key.
“Composure I’m sure is going to be preached on both sides, I know that I preach it, but you have to be composed and it starts with the coaching staff behind the bench. We’ve got to be composed and it filters down and the players can feel it. That’ one thing that we’ve preached all year is composure so it’s something that we’re prepared for and it’s something that our guys do a great job with. “
This win was the Oil Kings’ 16th consecutive win, but Laxdal doesn’t see it this way “By my count it’s only one win that’s the first one of the series.”
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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.
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