by Lisa McRitchie on 05/02/14 at 04:30 PM ET
For the third year in a row, the Edmonton Oil Kings have taken the WHL Eastern Conference by storm. Breezing through their first 3 playoff rounds, the Oil Kings have looked stronger than ever. But ultimately, the Oil Kings face their toughest competition, the Portland Winterhawks. Again. The teams have split the first two matchups with neither team having much success at the Memorial Cup, so this year is it’s anyone’s series.
The rivalry between the Oil Kings and the Winterhawks is an interesting one, the two teams only face each other once in each regular season and yet they have become heated playoff rivals.
The fans, the players, the coaching staff, everyone knows how heated and exciting this playoff series will be, and yet how difficult. There is not as much familiarity between the players, aside from what they see on tape. But what will help the Oil Kings through it all, at least according to head coach Derek Laxdal will be the united front the team has, their closeness as a team.
“Yeah, it’s tough [facing the Winterhawks for a third time]. You know what, our guys are a pretty close knit group of guys. They play hard for each other, there is a lot of good chemistry in that room, I’d say that it’s even better than last year but I just find that this group seems to be a little more close knit.
“Obviously the kids who were here last year, they have a bitter taste in their mouth from last year. Try to get another championship.”
Looking past the fact that the Oil Kings and Winterhawks are facing each other, there is still the fact that the Oil Kings didn’t get off to the best start this year, and had some ups and downs and no one knows that more than Laxdal “You’ve got to give our group a lot of credit, we probably weren’t picked to get to the finals this year and obviously our kids jelled together and we get a chance to get another crack at Portland and I expect it to be an outstanding series. I know that I’m looking forward to it, and I’m sure the fans are too.”
For Edmonton Oil Kings winger Mitch Moroz, this could be his final shot at any WHL championship. While he could be one of the 20 year olds on next year’s Oil King team, chances are Moroz will earn himself a place with the Oklahoma City Barons, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate team.
When asked about how quickly time had passed, Moroz admitted that he has thought about this potentially being his final year in the dub. “It’s flown by. Hard to believe, I’m just trying to soak it in, really, really hasn’t set in quite yet, but I’ll be ready come Saturday and I’m still trying to be a sponge and enjoy it. So you never know what could happen next year, so I just want to take advantage.”
Regardless of how Moroz’s 2013-14 season ends, he should have no regrets having garnered the attention on Oil King, Oilers’ and Barons’ fans. But for now, Moroz and the rest of the Oil Kings are focussed on getting through this series with a win.
Moroz is a bit of a physical player, a great agitator and presence on the ice, in the series against the Winterhawks, Moroz looks forward to a couple of player matchups; “I’ve always battled with [Brandon] Leipsic pretty good. He’s a really effective player, he’s been through this four times. Jeez. It will be cool to play my buddy Dumba there, who they picked up hallway through the season. I haven’t played them a lot lately but we always battle one of my best buddies and it’s going to be fun.”
The Oil Kings face the Winterhawks Saturday night for game one, and return to Rexall Place for games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
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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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