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.
The Edmonton Oilers have signed draft pick Bogdan Yakimov, 19, to a three-year entry level contract. The Oilers selected Yakimov in the third round, 83rd overall, in last year’s draft.
Yakimov is 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 220 pounds. He spent this past season with Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik in the KHL where he tallied 12 points (7-5-12) in 33 games.
The Oilers’ first-overall pick in 2012, Nail Yakupov, also played for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik (2012-13).
|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.