by Lisa Brown on 03/10/12 at 07:40 AM ET
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.
Friday night the Edmonton Oil Kings travelled down the highway to Red Deer to play the first of a home and home series against division rival Red Deer Rebels. The Oil Kings had all but won the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and the Red Deer Rebels still playing with a short roster are clutching to playoff dreams, but these games still have to be played.
Marc Mackenzie of the Rebels opened the scoring on the night on a rare sloppy Oil Kings’ penalty kill. But that was all it took for the Oil Kings to come to life and find their legs. The rest of the first period was dominated by Oil Kings scoring and scoring chances. T.J. Foster scored two power play goals thirty seconds apart and Curtis Lazar scored an Oil Kings’ third goal in three minutes to close out the first twenty minutes. The Oil Kings outshot their opponents 20-12, getting half of their game total of shots in the first 20 minutes.
“I was just feeling it out there” said Foster of his near hat-trick night. “The first one I got lucky and I got the rebound and it went in. The second one Marky [Pysyk] made a nice pass over and I tried to get the shot off as quick as possible and it went in.”
With a two goal chasm between the Rebels and the Oil Kings, it looked as though this could have been a double digit scoring game. But Rebels head coach and GM Jesse Wallin said whatever needed to be said between periods and the Rebels came out ready to play.
Playing a more inspired and disciplined game; the Rebels fought for their scoring chances but at the very least did not dig themselves into a deeper hole. Mason Burr of the Rebels scored lone second period goal, bringing his team within one as Rebels netmider Deven Dubyk played exceptionally well and gave his team a real chance to stay in the game if not win.
#28 Martin Gernat
Oil King and Oilers’ prospects Martin Gernat and Kristians Pelss each tallied an assist in the first period, and Gernat nearly had a goal. The puck went into the net, but it was unclear on the ice whether or not the puck went in before the net was knocked off of its moorings. With a quick call upstairs, which it literally is in the case of WHL games in Red Deer, it was determined that the goal would not count, so much for Gernat moving up the Oil Kings scoring list.
Ever the team player, Gernat laughed about the situation post game. “I saw that net was off from the goal line, and the puck was under, so it couldn’t be a goal, but that doesn’t matter. It’s important that we won the conference and we are really happy.” But Gernat did make sure he teased Foster about his two goals; there is certainly some friendly competition in the dressing room.
The other Oiler prospect on the Oil Kings’ roster, Travis Ewanyk netted himself the game’s final empty net goal as well as an assist on Rhett Rachinski’s empty netter giving the Oil Kings their 5-3 victory.
#26 Kristians Pelss and #21 Travis Ewanyk
“It’s disappointing, it’s a tough loss. We had a real good start to the hockey game. We came out with a lot of fire.” Said Rebel’s coach Jesse Wallin of his team’s performance.
Wallin certainly recognized his goaltenders contributions to the game, especially since he turned away 34 of 29 shots. “He gave us the chance, he held us in the game… He made some real good saves for us and it’s unfortunate, I feel bad for him, but weren’t able to pull it out for him, but he gave us a good effort.” It’s amazing how a goaltender who was not getting playing time backing up Tyler Bunz of the Medicine Hat Tigers can bounce around and then play the best hockey in his career because he landed with the most injured team in the league.
With two affiliate players on the roster, the Rebels were still playing a man down, with only 5 defencemen. And they will play 3 games in 3 days this weekend.
“We had to stay with it and we just tried to settle them down.” Wallin explained commenting on the character shown by his team to keep playing and battling despite the scoring deficit. “It was just a matter of getting them reset and refocused and these boys have faced a lot of adversity throughout the year.
“We knew that they would be ready for the challenge. They were able to reset and got ready to go, and I thought that they handled that real well; they put it behind them and came out. I thought that we showed a lot of grit for the situation that we were in, and playing against a team like that. It feels like an uphill battle sometimes but they continued to grind it out and push and gave ourselves a chance. So that’s all you can do, but they’ve been doing that all year.”
The two star defencemen played hard hitting solid games. Each took a penalty, both moved the puck, made hits and even got shots off on net. By not doing anything spectacular, they both can be said to have played a solid defencive game.
Outwardly for Griffin Reinhart, the media and scouting attention made no difference to the game. “It’s just another game for us. We just wanted to get them out of the playoffs like they did for us last year, so I think that that was good for us. Worrying about Dumba doesn’t really affect my game, I just have to go out there and play strong.”
With this victory, the Oil Kings have secured their reign at the top of the WHL Eastern Conference and have basically eliminated the Red Deer Rebels from playoff contention. Of course, if the stars align, and if the Rebels win all five of their final games, the Rebels could make the playoffs. But, with a Saturday game against the Oil Kings and a Sunday afternoon game against the Calgary Hitmen, it is safe to say that the Rebels will soon be licking their wounds and waiting hoping for better next year.
For Saturday’s game, Reinhart expects another heated battle; “We always play them as a hard fought game. Even last year we played them twice in a row and that game meant nothing in the standings. With us, it’s always a rivalry and a competition and both teams are going to want to win that game.”
Foster concurred saying “Those are always tough games. There’s a lot of bad blood between the teams, we’re rivals so it should be another hard fought good game.“
In order to get the win Saturday night, the Oil Kings need only stick to their simple game, and Gernat put it best when he said that his team needs to keep it simple in preparing. “Good sleep and be ready” was all that Gernat felt his team could do, and he’s right.
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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.
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