LONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings will play the same team in back-to-back games when they meet the Val d'Or Foreurs Friday at 5:00 p.m. MT on Sportsnet. It will be the closest thing they've had to a playoff series since this tournament began.
In the last meeting, Edmonton outshot Val d'Or 50-33 and never trailed in the contest but ended up losing in double overtime to the QMJHL opponents. Curtis Lazar talked about wanting to bounce back from that loss and the ability to do it so soon.
"That motivates everyone. We let them off the hook," Lazar began. "We're not going to make the same mistake twice. They're a good hockey club, in saying that. They played a pretty good game. We'll be ready."
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart talked about the tournament opposition, and specfically about Val d'Or.
"We've played every team now. Every team is good," he said. "They've got a lot of talent and a lot of skill up front, too. Their back-end is good. We've got to keep them to the outside. If we end up playing them again, we've got to do the same things."
Forward Edgars Kulda, who missed on a pivotal penalty shot in the first period, talked about wanting to get back at the team which defeated them on Tuesday night.
"I wanted to get revenge on Val d'Or. We want to win that game (Friday) and you want to get revenge on Guelph too, in the championship. Of course, it will be a good test for us," said Kulda.
"Every game is like a Game 7. You need and try to show your best effort. Right now we ended up Round Robin at 1-2 but I think every team is beatable here. I think we can beat every team. We just need to use our opportunities a little bit more and play more our defensive structure game."
Edmonton Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish is in London, Ontario to take in the Memorial Cup and watch one of the team’s prospects on the Edmonton Oil Kings, Mitch Moroz.
MacTavish was on Sportsnet’s broadcast of the Memorial Cup last night and commented on Moroz.
“He’s had a terrific year, I think he had 15 goals the year before, he’s had 35 goals this year,” MacTavish said. “He’s obviously a guy we’ve watched extensively playing in Edmonton.”
“Very tough,” he continued. “He’s definitely a sheriff at this level. We’re all excited in Edmonton, the Oilers that is, to get Mitch in our organization. We think he’s going to be a very bright spot in our future.”
Moroz had 63 points (35-28-63) in 70 games during the regular season. In 21 playoff games, Moroz has posted 19 points (6-13-19).
Edmonton Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish was on Sportsnet’s broadcast of the Memorial Cup last night and spoke with the panel about what the mood is like out there in regards to trade talk and movement.
MacTavish said that it’s all quiet on that front but should heat up after the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“The trade deadline was a little anti-climatic I thought this year,” he said. “But it’s really a little bit of a lull right now from a managerial standpoint. There’s not too too much going on with the NHL playoffs, including here in the next month but it will heat up very quickly. There are a lot of teams that are going to have a lot of pressure to get better very quickly, the Edmonton Oilers certainly being one of those teams and we’re going to be doing what we did last year. (That is) making the phone calls and trying to see what the market is out there to help ourselves improve.”
The two day event includes a silent auction and hockey tournament to raise awareness and funds for the Neurosurgery Kids Fund at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. In the first year of existence, this tournament helped raise $68,000 which was then matched by CN Miracle for a total of around $140,000. The goal was $15,000.
“What started as an idea has grown into an amazing life experience,” said Chris Branco, one of the founders of the event. “Never did I think that my love for hockey would introduce me to an inspiring group of kids from the The Neurosurgery Kids Fund, who I now call my friends.”
Oilers TV’s Tom Gazzola and edmontonoilers.com’s Chris Wescott will be playing in the tournament along with local media celebrities Dustin Nielson from TSN 1260, Ryan Jespersen from Breakfast TV and Min Dhariwal from CBC.
“We did this last year and it was fantastic,” Gazzola said. “Chris and his group did such an outstanding job organizing this that myself and the other media guys were quick to jump onboard again this year.”
The silent auction will take place on Friday at Average Joes Sports Bar in Sherwood Park (390 Baseline Road) at 7 p.m. The ’12 hours of hockey’ tournament will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday at Argyll Arena (9933 63 Ave NW).
“I want to thank every player, volunteer and donor for your generosity,” Branco said. “Because of you, one step at a time, change will come. To the parents and family members of The Neurosurgery Kids Fund who have allowed me and my teammates into your families, we can't thank you enough. Our goal last year was to raise some money and bring awareness to a group of everyday people trying to make the lives of those affected by brain or spinal surgeries just a little bit easier. We succeeded… Thank you.”
Over $57,000 has already been raised for this year’s event, prior to the silent auction.
To buy a ticket to attend, contact Chris Branco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for more information.
Being their third game in the tournament, the Oil Kings players have had a chance to sit and watch a couple of their opponent's games in person. They expect a tough test against a skilled team.
"We watched the game against London and had a chance to watch most of the game yesterday," Samuelsson began. "They have a lot of good offensively gifted guys and we're just going to have to shut them down and play a defensively-sound game tonight."
Leading the way offensively is Anthony Mantha, who has 82 goals in 83 games this season counting regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup.
"He definitely knows how to put the puck in the net. Probably Griffin and Sautner are going to have that task to shut them down tonight. They've been doing a good job shutting down top players all year," Samuelsson continued. "If they can do that, that will give us a better chance to win tonight."
Reinhart talked about that challenge, having successfully shut down Prince Albert's Leon Draisaitl in round one among other challenges this season.
"We know that teams here are going to have good players. We can't put all our attention towards Mantha. Obviously, we've heard a lot about him and a few of us have seen him overseas at the World Juniors. He's a good player and we definitely have to key on him but there's other players who can step up as well so we have to focus on the whole team."
Laxdal talked about the other weapons the Val d'Or squad has.
"There's a few players you have to key on that hockey club. If you look at their back end, Gazzola, Gelinas, Graves are their big point producers. Up front, Mantha can score. He's deceiving. He lies in the weeds a little bit and all of a sudden he has great speed for a big man."
Laxdal added that Guelph did a good job neutralizing the 6'5" Mantha.
"They were physical on him early and we have to have that same formula."
The significance of tonight's game wasn't lost on the Oil Kings, who know how big a semifinal berth would be, given that in 2012 the club lost in the tiebreaker game.
"It's a goal in sight and you can look forward to that," said Mitch Moroz. "(But) you've got to focus on the 60 minutes in front of you and don't look too far ahead."
Henrik Samulesson said that the peace of mind that comes with winning tonight along with the rest of not having to play on Thursday would be welcomed.
"It's huge. We got knocked out in the tiebreaker game and that was heartbreaking for us. If we get to the semifinals that will give us a few days to rest and that'll be huge for us because we've played so much hockey in the last few weeks and we need that rest."
The Edmonton Oil Kings can advance to Friday's Memorial Cup Semifinal with a win tonight over the QMJHL's Val d'Or Foreurs.
"Both teams are sitting at 1-1 and there's a lot to play for here tonight, to go to the semi-final and to get home ice for the semi-final is a key part," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal following Tuesday's optional morning skate.
Val d'Or won their tournament opener 1-0 over London last Friday on the strength of 51 saves from goaltender Antoine Bibeau. Last night, they lost 6-3 to Guelph but the Oil Kings head coach felt they played better overall and he expects their best game tonight.
"We've got to play our style. Val d'Or's a big, strong team. They've got some offence there. Even though they lost last night, I thought they played a much better team game than they did against London so obviously they're finding their stride a little bit. For us, we've got to stick to our structure and play our game."
Laxdal hoped to see from his squad a similar effort and performance from Sunday's 5-2 win over the London Knights.
"There were times in the game where London had a push but I thought we recovered well. We didn't have a lot of that D-zone time where we got hemmed in. The one time we did, we took a penalty and they scored in the six-on-five situation. Tonight, we've got to find that level we did when we played against London."
The Oil Kings power play was having trouble connecting in the tournament, going 0-for-5 against Guelph and then 0-for-7 against London until an unlikely hero ended it.
Luke Bertolucci scored with 1:37 left to play in the game on Edmonton's eighth power play of the game and 13th in the tournament.
"I'm not usually on the power play so it was kind of different for me but I was excited to get that one," said Bertolucci after the game.
The winger added that it's just a matter of time before they really start clicking.
"We have great personnel on the power play. We have all the talent in the world out there. We just have to execute it."
Bertolucci talked about the focus that the Oil Kings had going into the game.
"We had to refocus after our last game. Some of the guys stepped up in the room and said stuff. We knew what we had to do and now we have a big one against Val d'Or."
LONDON, ON - A big change for the Oil Kings at the Memorial Cup versus the WHL Playoffs is after a loss they don't get the opportunity to bounce back against the same opponent. The team has been trying to get in that mindset.
"It's such a high-tempo tournament. All the teams are very good here. You have to come out with your best game every day. You don't see these teams all year and don't get to play them so it's quite different," said Jarry.
Lazar added that he hopes that he can bring his World Junior experience to the table, where the feel of that tournament is very similar to this one.
"Still looking for our first win. In a short-term competition you do need those wins. For myself and Griffin (Reinhart) we're going to pass on that knowledge. Just rise to the challenge. Every day there's a new challenge available and it's up for the taking. It's a matter of which team is going to go out there and executive the best to get the win."
LONDON, ON - A big change for tonight for the Oil Kings will be the crowd. While impartial last night, they will be sold out and solidly behind the hometown Knights tonight.
"It was funny, yesterday the rink was packed but the fans didn't really know who to cheer for. They were just there to watch some good hockey," said Curtis Lazar. "Tonight's going to be completely different but we have the experience playing in full barns like Portland. We know what it takes to spoil the party as you could say. Taking the crowd out of it early is going to be key."
Goaltender Tristan Jarry felt that the experience of playing in front of sold out high-capacity crowds in Portland -- and winning two critical games there in Game 5 and Game 7 -- will help his squad this evening.
"Playing in Portland really helped. It helped our players and it helped me with the environment that you're in with the fans. So I think it'll help us here tonight," Jarry remarked.
Coach Laxdal doesn't feel like the crowd will be a factor.
"It doesn't matter what the crowd's like. We have to go out and focus on the team on the ice. The message for us, like any game, is whistle to whistle. Our emotions were high last night in a big competition game and for some of our kids there was a lot of extra activity after the whistles. We have to focus and channel that energy between whistle to whistle to increase our intensity in the game."