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WHL Eastern Conference Down to One Game

Few thought that this would be an easy challenge for the Oil Kings, but most thought that the Hitmen would have been knocked out by now. Instead, it’s a game 7 showdown, winner takes all in Edmonton Tuesday night. To the victor, the opportunity to limp into the WHL finals against the Portland Winterhawks. And the loser, an early summer. Somehow neither opportunity sounds all that pleasant.

Game 5 of the WHL Eastern Conference finals set the WHL attendance record for this year’s playoffs when the hockey faithful poured into Rexall Place numbering just over 11 thousand. That number does pale in comparison to NHL attendance totals, but the Oil Kings have averaged 7576 fans per game during the regular season. There is hope that fans will return to Rexall in September, and maybe another trip to the Memorial Cup would ensure that.

Ultimately though, it’s a little early to talk about the Memorial Cup, the Eastern Conference is yet to be determined.

Each team has won two home games and one away, so in terms of home ice advantage, the odds are in the Oil Kings favour. But there are other factors to consider.

The Oil Kings are without their captain Griffin Reinhart who had to undergo surgery to repair a torn tendon in his foot. Reinhart is expected to be out the next 6-8 weeks, but in his absence other leaders have emerged. Carolina Hurricaine’s prospect Keegan Lowe is wearing the C, and head coach Derek Laxdal says that leaders have emerged, and that everyone is playing their role. The team may not be the same without their captain, but they have still gotten themselves within one game of the WHL finals.

Scoring shouldn’t be an issue for the Oil Kings who have outscored the Hitmen 25 to 16 through the first six games. But only if the Oil Kings can control the tempo of the games, and keep the Hitmen chasing. The Oil Kings are the quicker and overall more skilled team and if they can keep the Hitmen spinning their wheels, it will come down to goaltending.

The goaltenders in this series have been unbelievable, if only for bursts at a time. Oil Kings’ netminder Laurent Brossoit (LB) posted a 6-0 shutout over the Hitmen, has a 0.937 save percentage through the playoffs and 0.867 this series, and has faced 122 shots from the Hitmen through 6 games.

Of course Chris Driedger of the Hitmen has made his team proud. While the Oil Kings have outshot the Hitmen 199 to 125, they have only outscored 25 to 16. Driedger bosts a 0.880 save percentage and has kept his team in every single playoff game to this point. 

Scoring shouldn’t be an issue for the Oil Kings who have outscored the Hitmen 25 to 16 through the first six games. But only if the Oil Kings can control the tempo of the games, and keep the Hitmen chasing. The Oil Kings are the quicker and overall more skilled team and if they can keep the Hitmen spinning their wheels, it will come down to goaltending.

The goaltenders in this series have been unbelievable, if only for bursts at a time. Oil Kings’ netminder Laurent Brossoit (LB) posted a 6-0 shutout over the Hitmen, has a 0.937 save percentage through the playoffs and 0.867 this series, and has faced 122 shots from the Hitmen through 6 games.

Of course Chris Driedger of the Hitmen has made his team proud. While the Oil Kings have outshot the Hitmen 199 to 125, they have only outscored 25 to 16. Driedger bosts a 0.880 save percentage and has kept his team in every single playoff game to this point.

Physical play will be expected. Friday night in Rexall Place saw a total of 21 penalty minutes and 9 infractions for the Hitmen and 23 minutes and 6 infractions for the Oil Kings. Make no mistake, there is some bad blood between these two teams. Oil King winger Henrik Samuelsson took the most penalty minutes at 19, including a 10 minute misconduct and a 5 minute fighting major all from standing up for Curtis Lazar. Samuelsson would do it all again if he had to. Samuelsson is a 2012 first round pick who knows what it takes to make it to the memorial cup. But making it to the tournament and hoisting it up above your head are two entirely different things. This time Samuelsson wants it all.

Game time is 7pm MST at Rexall Place, winner take all.

Filed in: WHL, Calgary Hitmen, Edmonton Oil Kings, | Oil Patch | Permalink
 

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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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