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."
As he has done throughout the season, even in trying times, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish emphatically got behind his head coach on Tuesday.
"I’m more confident in my decision to hire Dallas Eakins than the day I hired him. I’m more convinced that this is the right coach to lead us into much more successful times. Time will prove, in my mind, that this coach was a very good hire for our organization. I really feel like he’s the guy to add the culture element that are necessary to build the quality team that we’re trying to build."
MacTavish felt that Eakins handled what was a season with a lot of adversity extremely well.
"The thing I like about Dallas is he’s relentless. In spite of the ups and downs, the messaging has all stayed the same," he said. "It’s quite clear to me in watching the development of our group over the last 30 games or so that the players are buying into the leadership of the head coach."
The GM was also asked about the assistant coaches, which he noted are the hires of Eakins and that it is the bench boss's call on whether they come back next season.
"I will sit down with Dallas at the end of the year, after a week or so, to let emotions subside for a bit. My sense is that we have the right people. We have the right coaches in place and it’s my responsibility to support those coaches in any way I can."
MacTavish did say that he felt the assistant coaches have a lot to offer.
"The head coach should decide what his staff is. It’s important that he has the absolute right mixes of coaches for him. We explored other coaches, we brought in Keith Acton as an associate coach last year," he began.
"Kelly Buchberger has a lot of great traits in my mind and he adds to this hockey club. But ultimately, it’s the head coach's decision," MacTavish also praised Steve Smith, adding "I really feel like this staff started to function well together at the end of the year."
One thing Oilers GM Craig MacTavish stressed in his end-of-season press conference was that if he adds a defenceman, he wants it to be of the high-end variety.
"I want to add a very high-end defenceman. To me, I don't want be adding anything in the middle. If I can get something that can move the dial on the back end of our team (I'll do it)," MacTavish began, adding that the move has to make sense for him to do it.
"If we get something that makes sense, we’ll make that change. I’ve got some specific personnel pieces and objectives in mind. I won’t be adding anything middle of the road to this defence core."
Last season, the team added a handful of depth defencemen such as Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Philip Larsen and others but MacTavish now feels that the young blueliners are ready to step in, hence the need for someone at the upper end of the spectrum.
"Everybody had a pretty good idea of Oscar Klefbom’s ability at the end of this year. He was outstanding, as was Justin Schultz, Martin Marincin, Jeff Petry — for some of the criticism he took at times, had a career year."
MacTavish added that Darnell Nurse is also performing well right now in Oklahoma City and isn't too far off.
"There’s a lot of optimism internally. If we have to go young, we go young."
One big offseason priority for the team is to add some secondary scoring for the club. MacTavish talked about going either the signing route or trading route to make that happen.
"That’s an area we’ve identified that we’d like to improve in. We’ll be trying to do all those things to try and get a more productive second line," MacT began. "If Hall, Eberle, RNH are going to continue to play together we need a more productive second line. We’d (also) like to get more secondary scoring out of the third line."
The GM was confident that he could bring in free agents if it came to that.
"I haven’t lost the passion for selling our situation. I was never great in sales but when you’re passionate about something and believe in something, you can sell it," he said. "It has a lot to do with resources. Outside of the city of Edmonton, there’s a lot of optimism out there."
He added that the types of players that he wants to acquire are those which enjoy and thrive in playing in a passionate hockey market like Edmonton.
"Players that we’d like to acquire will find that extremely fulfilling and rewarding professionally."