LONDON, ON - On the heels of last night's loss to Guelph, the Edmonton Oil Kings had an optional skate on Sunday in which most of tonight's lineup elected to not take part. Instead, the team focused their preparation on an all-new opponent: London.
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal spoke with the media this morning and reflected on last night's 5-2 loss to OHL Champion Guelph.
"The biggest thing for us is we have to play that really structured game for 60 minutes. I thought we got away from our game a couple of times and when we did, they capitalized. We were sitting there (in the lead at) 2-1. I liked their energy there in the second period. We were pushing. And they got that bounce. They had a couple of bounces last night but overall if you look at it, there's a lot of things we could do better. We could battle a lot harder, we could have more intensity in the offensive zone and defensive zone."
Edmonton now moves on to another Ontario Hockey League opponent in London. Laxdal felt that the team showed that it can play with the best of that league last night with their performance against the champs.
"But the biggest thing for our team last night, we can play with Guelph, we can play with London. Our confidence will grow," he said.
Laxdal was asked about whether tonight was a must-win. And while a 1-2 record wouldn't necessary count them out of the playoff round, Laxdal felt that a bounce back tonight was very important.
"In a short-term tournament like this, that term comes up pretty frequently. Especially when you have to turn around the next day. There's not a lot of prep time for us for London but we held some meetings last night and our kids are resilient. We talked about that in the Portland series and it seems like the way now. We're in a new tournament and we have to be ready to go tonight."
LONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings hit the ice for their first practice at this Memorial Cup in London on Thursday. It was their first chance to really test what is expected to be challenging ice conditions.
"The humidity was heavy out there. The ice was slow," noted Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal, adding that doesn't give his team a built-in excuse.
"It's going to be the same for every team so we've got to find a way to elevate it. We'll give them a day of practice here and tomorrow there will be more intensity."
The challenge for the head coach is to try and get his team to focus after an emotion seven-game series win over Portland which concluded on Monday night.
"You look at the venue. For these 17-year-olds coming in here, it's starry-eyed for them. We have to get over that and ensure they understand that on Saturday (when they play Guelph at 2:00 p.m. MT), it is a Game 7 in the Memorial Cup."
|Curtis Lazar was one of the Oil Kings who played in the 2012 Memorial Cup.
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart also spoke to the unfamiliarity aspect with these teams being brand new to most of the players on his team. The only exception being a handful of players on London who were there for the 2012 Memorial Cup and faced the seven Oil Kings who were in that tournament.
"Most guys that have played at this level have played in other tournaments for Canada or their province and you've got to treat it like that, where you don't know other teams. You just come in and focus on your game and don't worry about what's out of your control."
Mitch Moroz talked about how the roller coaster of emotions that occurred in the WHL Championship series will help them with this tournament.
"It showed our ability to reset and have responses. Especially after that Game 6 hearbreak, being able to re-prepare and have a good mindset for Game 7 is what you have to do before every game here. We have the right guys to be able to do that every time and I like the way our team is coming in."
Laxdal agreed with Moroz that focus was key.
"I think we learned from two years ago that you've got to get your rest and stay focused."
LONDON, ON - The Oil Kings will be the home team for their Saturday game against Geulph (2:00 p.m. MT, Sportsnet) and Sunday against London (5:00 p.m. MT, Sportsnet). The most significant thing to come out of that is they will enjoy last change for both of those games.
However, despite that fact, Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said that he likely won't do a lot of matching of forward lines.
"We have to elevate our game to the pace that Guelph is going to play," he said, adding that paying too much attention to matching lines up front would slow the game down for his side.
"We're very comfortable in the three lines that we have. When we made the change with Eddie Kulda and Reid Petryk, it actually balanced out three lines," said Laxdal, talking about moving Kulda to what has been a solid-performing line with Mitch Moroz and Henrik Samuelsson.
Laxdal noted that he will try and get favourable matchups for his blueliners but had no problem going to that third pairing when needed.
"With our back end I can honestly say I'm happy putting anyone out, including our sixth defenceman."
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."
WATCH: Press Conference Highlights on Oilers TV | WATCH: Full Press Conference Raw
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.”
|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.
|Photo courtesy of Stockton Thunder
The Bakersfield Condors dropped Game 3 of their best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series against the Stockton Thunder on Wednesday night by a score of 6-2.
The Condors actually opened the scoring in this one on a late first-period goal by Joel Broda.
Stockton replied with a pair of tallies in the second to take a 2-1 lead. Two early goals in the third made it 4-1.
It was 5-1 before the Condors would find the twine again, a Chase Schaber goal just past the 15-minute mark. The Thunder would add an empty netter to make it a 6-2 final.
Oilers prospect Laurent Brossoit faced 22 shots, making 17 saves. Despite allowing five goals, Brossoit still has a 1.69 goals-against average and .937 save percentage through eight games in these playoffs.
The next two games are also in Stockton this Friday and Saturday. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 will be back in Bakersfield on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.
|Photo courtesy of Bakersfield Condors
The Bakersfield Condors defeated the Stockton Thunder in Game 2 of their second-round series by a score of 2-0 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Saturday night.
Oilers prospect Laurent Brossoit stopped all 22 shots he faced for his 11th shutout, counting regular season and post season. It was also his third shutout of these playoffs.
Condors goals were scored by Nick MacNeil, with 1:25 to go in the first period, and Greg Miller, with 2:22 remaining in the game.
The series now shifts to Stockton for Game 3, 4 and 5 as the Condors look to adavance to the third round with two more victories.
|Photo courtesy of Bakersfield Condors
The Bakersfield Condors defeated the Stockton Thunder in Game 1 of their second-round series, coming from behind to overcome a two-goal deficit in a 3-2 victory at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Friday night.
After Stockton took a 2-0 lead early in the second, Ryan Watson scored at the 8:47 mark to make it a one-goal game. With 1:13 to go in the middle frame, Chase Schaber scored to tie the game at 2-2.
In the third, Joel Broda scored at the five-minute mark to make it 3-2. That goal ultimately held up as the winner.
Oilers prospect Laurent Brossoit stopped 24 of 26 shots in the victory.
- RAW | Craig MacTavish Press Conference
- ANALYSIS | Tom Gazzola & Chris Wescott Speak Following Press Conference
Oilers GM Craig MacTavish spoke to the media at length on Tuesday. He opened with about five or six minutes worth of opening remarks:
"My assessment of the year was, the season started with high expectations. We had, internally, high expectations for our group at the start and right from the start of the year things didn’t go well. We didn’t live up to the expectations we had internally nor the expectations of our fans in terms of our performance level.
"We didn’t function well. With all the change, we struggled mightily early in the year and played catch-up ever since. It was exactly the start we didn’t want and we tried to overcome all year long."
MacTavish reiterated that the team's goal is not to simply build a playoff team, but one that is able to regularly challenge for championships.
"We’re building a team that’s going to be capable of winning a Stanley Cup. That’s what we’re doing," the GM continued. "I think I’ve got a pretty good idea on the pulse of our fans and what our fans want. It’s been a painful process for them as well as us. Every decision I make starts with that first question, that’s the vision for our group."
MacTavish talked further about the type of player he wants to add to the organization -- and the type of players he has added over his 12-month tenure as general manager.
"We want character. When I took the job over, my mandate was to bring in leadership. We want hard working people, we want competitive people. The strategy is really a simple one. The sophistication is in the execution of that strategy," he said. "I want players on our bench, when that puck goes in our net to feel as bad as the coach."