LONDON, ON - Oilers prospect Mitch Moroz was on the Oil Kings when they made the Memorial Cup in 2012 but the role he is playing this time around is much more substantial.
"Mitch was on the third or fourth line (in 2012), now he's in the top six and on the big line with Henrik Samuelsson and Eddie Kulda. He's a big forward. He's got to be physical at this Memorial Cup. He's got to go hard to the net and put pucks on the net," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal.
Citing a specific example, Laxdal pointed out where Moroz will be very important against a team like Guelph on Saturday.
"If you look at Guelph's penalty kill, they do a good job," he began. "Their penalty kill is very similar to Medicine Hat so the challenge for us is we've got to get pucks to the net and jump on loose pucks."
Moroz talked about getting a second shot at a Memorial Cup here in 2014.
"Last time everyone came in a little wide-eyed and I said it before that we weren't really sure what to expect. We definitely didn't take advantage of our opportunity and left with some regret," he said of the Oil Kings' fourth-place finish.
"You go through cycles as a junior player and you have to pay your dues a little bit. I found myself in a third and fourth line role the past couple years and this year I was given more opportunity. I'm excited to have a little more opportunity this time."
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LONDON, ON - The four head coaches of the participating teams at the MasterCard Memorial Cup took part in a "meet the media" press conference this evening. London Knights head coach Dale Hunter, Guelph Storm head coach Scott Walker, Val d'Or Foreurs head coach Mario Derocher and Edmonton Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal spoke with the media.
Hunter's Knights, the tournament host, finished fourth in the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference with 103 points (49-14-1-4).
“It’s going to be a real great competition here and it’s going to be tough. That’s what it’s all about. It’s tough to win. I’m looking forward to it.”
|Left to Right: Scott Walker, Derek Laxdal, Mario Durocher and Dale Hunter
Hunter knows a lot about winning at this level. The Knights won the OHL title in 2004-05, 2011-12 and 2012-13. His squad won the Memorial Cup right here on home ice in 2005 but lost in the championship game in 2012. They also made it to the tournament last year.
Laxdal talked about the road the Oil Kings took this time around to get to their second Memorial Cup in three years.
“It was quite an anomaly playing Portland three years in a row. This year, going to Game 7 in Portland in a pretty incredible environment," the Oil Kings head coach began.
Edmonton saw a 5-2 third period lead slip away at home in Game 6 but managed to bounce back and win Game 7 on the road to take the championship -- the first WHL to ever accomplish the feat.
"For our kids to come back and win in seven games is outstanding and shows the resiliency of our hockey club."
Val d'Or also won Game 7 on the road, less than 24 hours earlier. It was a dramatic finish, with Anthony Mantha scoring with 52 seconds left to play to clinch the 4-3 win. The Foreurs had a 3-0 lead in the game but Baie Comeau tied it at 3-3 with less than two minutes to go.
"It was a big game yesterday, Game 7. It was the second Game 7, we did the same thing in Halifax on the road (in the previous round). Our team showed a lot of character," said coach Desrocher.
Scott Walker's Guelph Storm were tops in the OHL with 108 points and rode that to an impressive playoff which saw them win all four rounds by the same four-games-to-one count.
Walker was looking forward to the test against the CHL's best.
“It’ll be a test for all four of us, to get our teams prepared to play against three great hockey teams you don’t see often — other than us with London,” Walker stated. “It’s really exciting for me to see the calibre and mental toughness of all the teams.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings have come to expect the unexpected when it comes to their WHL final series against Portland. After dropping the first two games of the series, Edmonton battled back to take a 3-2 series lead heading into game six. They had two three-goal leads disappear and Portland came back to tie the series with a 6-5 overtime win.
“I think that’s a good motto for the series,” Head Coach Derek Laxdal said about expecting the unexpected. “Portland’s defencemen scored five goals last night. I thought we got a little bit careless in some of our d-zone coverage but at the end of the day that’s playoff hockey, that’s junior hockey. It’s a one-game shot for a championship and the best team will prevail tonight.”
The Oil Kings are prepared with the knowledge that they have to be ready for anything.
“Unpredictable,” Luke Bertolucci says of the series and game seven. “Going down 2-0 and then coming back and getting three straight and then their comeback last night, you don’t write that up. We don’t know what to expect tonight but we’re just going to give it our all.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings watched two three-goal leads slip away in game six last night and with those, their chance at closing out the series on home ice. Winterhawks proved resilient and came back to beat Edmonton 6-5 in overtime to force a game seven in Portland tonight.
The Oil Kings’ attitude going into tonight’s game is much more jovial than it was last night following the loss.
“Pumped,” Cody Corbett said of the team’s mood going into tonight’s game. “All of the guys in the room are so excited. Whatever happened last night, that’s last night. Today is today, the sun came up this morning and you know we’re a good hockey club and we’re going to find a way to bounce back tonight.”
“Game seven is the biggest thing in all of hockey,” said Edgars Kulda, who had two goals in game six. “It’s the most important game in our season right now and of course everyone is excited, everyone is getting ready and we’ll come out strong today.”
Head coach Derek Laxdal has not had to do much to get them to forget last night’s game and focus solely on tonight.
“They’re pretty good,” he said. “They’re teenage kids. I think the coaching staff has a harder time of letting it go but the kids… they dwelled on it for a little bit last night then we got on the bus after the plane and you could see them start to loosen up a little bit. They know what their focus is, they have an understanding and they know that they weren’t at their best last night. They had a great period and a half and didn’t have a great second and third period. At the end of the day, we’ve got to be ready to go tonight with a one-game shot.”
Kulda adds, “What happened, happened. You can’t change what happened last game. We just need to come out and play our game seven as the most important game.”
Luke Bertolucci said, “It’s a new day, the sun came up. That’s something the coach emphasized. We have to start fresh today and forget about the last six games and tonight is our night.”
The Oil Kings are hoping the fans come out in waves for game six tomorrow night against the Portland Winterhawks. Edmonton has a chance to close out the series and take home their second Ed Chynoweth Cup.
“I think it’s exciting,” Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal said. “Anytime a championship series comes to a city or a town I think it’s important for the city to jump on board and support the program. That being said, it’s three years in a row now where we’ve had great fan support and we’ve had great fan support on short notices. I hope everybody brings their mothers out for mother’s day to watch the game tomorrow night.”
The Oil Kings said as of 1 p.m. Saturday that they had sold over 8,000 tickets.
The Edmonton Oil Kings host the Portland Winterhawks with the opportunity to close out the WHL final with a win on home ice. The prospects of winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup at home on Sunday afternoon would normally have teams pressing and making mistakes. However, the Oil Kings have the core leadership group that can keep the team in check in a huge game.
“These kids know exactly what they’re playing for,” head coach Derek Laxdal said. “You really don’t want to touch on it because they know exactly what’s going on and they can only go two ways. They can play a great game and get a win or we’re going back (to Portland) for game seven. That’s just the way it is. But I think our kids have faced enough adversity in this series where they know exactly what the prize at the end of the line is. They’re well prepared, they were energized (Saturday) on the bus, they’re focused and I know they’re excited to play in front of a big crowd here tomorrow night.”
“I just think the character in our dressing room will do that,” Henrik Samuelsson added. “We have a lot of character guys in our room that have been here and even guys that haven’t been here that know what it takes to win and I think we’ll be fine that way.”
One of those leaders is, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, Griffin Reinhart.
“His leadership and his play on the ice is outstanding,” Laxdal said. “Just his shutdown presence, he scored a big goal for us last night and he had a big play, a big turnover on Samuelsson’s goal. He’s been a big part offensively and defensively for our hockey club. We actually moved him up onto the first unit of our power play just because of his experience and his poise. He’s really come into his own here. I know he’s excited to play in the championship final here and he’s obviously doing a great job of leading this group of players.”
Even with all that leadership some of the players may find themselves gripping their sticks a little tighter and playing tired after a restless night sleep.
“I struggled to get some sleep last night,” Curtis Lazar said. “Maybe I am fighting a cold. But I think just the butterflies for getting on the ice tomorrow is also part of it.”
Through the opening rounds of the WHL playoffs and through battling back from down two games early in the championship series to take the 3-2 lead, the Edmonton Oil Kings have inched closer to their goal of taking back the Ed Chynoweth Cup. The Oil Kings have grown as a team and as individuals throughout the process.
“When you go through the first three rounds you see the growth of your team but when you get into that championship series and you get into it going into game six, you really see the growth of some of your leadership guys on your team and then you see some growth of some of the younger kids you have coming through,” Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s about the experience of these kids going as far as they can in the playoffs and learning and experiencing through part of the challenges.”
|Photo courtesy of Stockton Thunder
The Bakersfield Condors came back from a 1-0 third-period deficit to defeat the Stockton Thunder 2-1 and now hold a 3-1 series lead.
After a scoreless first period, Stockton's Marc Canton tallied midway through the second to give the home side the advantage.
Bakersfield finally tied the game with 7:51 to go in the third after Jordan Knackstedt scored.
The game looked destined for overtime but Joel Broda tallied with 1:39 to play to make it a 2-1 final.
Oilers prospect Laurent Brossoit faced 30 shots, making 29 saves.
The Condors can wrap the series up on Saturday. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 will be back in Bakersfield on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.
In the WHL final, the Portland Winterhawks and Edmonton Oil Kings are all tied up. They also both boast big home-ice advantages. Both teams are undefeated at home in the playoffs. The Winterhawks are 9-0-0-0 while the Oil Kings, after wins in games three and four, are 10-0-0-0.
That may end sometime sooner rather than later and the Oil Kings are hoping it is them who gets the first road win of the series.
“We’ve had a good home record all year,” Edmonton defenceman Griffin Reinhart said. “We won a lot of games in that building so we are pretty comfortable but we knew coming into this series that we’d have to win at least one on the road and our mindset going into this game is hopefully tonight.”
In order to do just that, the Oil Kings will try to keep up their pace on the penalty kill. They killed all three of their penalties in game four while getting a 26-save performance from Tristan Jarry in a 2-0 shutout. That’s quite the feat as it was the first time in 247 games the Winterhawks had been shutout. It’s even more impressive that, since game one, the Winterhawks have gone 0-for-11 on the power play. Portland ranks third overall in these playoffs, scoring at 23.6% on the man advantage.
Discipline was something the Oil Kings emphasized, ahead of tonight’s game five, both with turnovers and penalties.
“I think with the first two games, just the turnovers,” Griffin Reinhart said. We can’t continue doing that. They’re going to capitalize on our mistakes and they’ve been doing that the first two games. We’ve got to stick to our structure and play a disciplined game. They’re good on the power play and anytime they can explode, it’s never a safe lead so we’ve got to savour the discipline.”
The Edmonton Oil Kings have gotten a boost from their third line of Mads Eller, Riley Kieser and Luke Bertolucci and that’s help translate into wins for a team that started the series down two games to none. Edmonton has since tied their WHL final series with the Portland Winterhawks at 2-2 heading into a big game five tonight.
Although that third line hasn’t scored many goals, they’ve been contributing heavily on the penalty kill and in the face-off dot while providing energy. The head coach says he feels like it’s a matter of time before it becomes critical mass with that line contributing more on the score sheet.
“I think it’s very important to have that third line, they’re your energy guys,” Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal said. “They’re going to score in the series. They’re getting close. Obviously, Bertolucci scored a huge goal for us in game three but Mads Eller, Riley Kieser, those kids score at the most opportune times just because they work so hard. Their contributions penalty-kill wise and Riley Kieser on face offs, has been outstanding. That’s a line that they kind of wear you down. They’re not flashy, they just have that great work ethic and they get pucks to the net and find ways to get goals and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up scoring a goal tonight for us.”
With the help of their third line, the Oil Kings have not allowed a power-play goal since game one. That was a 4-on-3 tally in the second period on May 3. Since then, Portland is 0-for-11 on the man advantage.
“I think we’re just trying to bring that energy,” Kieser said. “Every game we’re competing hard and trying to battle against their top lines and trying to be good in our own zone and that will reflect in the offensive zone. Just trying to get energy for our team and stuff like that.”
On the road, in a pivotal game five and with the series tied, secondary scoring from that line would really bring the energy for the already surging Oil Kings.