PLUS First in Cen­tral

Oil Kings take over top spot in Cen­tral Divi­sion

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Oil KINGS

If the Ed­mon­ton Oil Kings were in­tent on mak­ing a state­ment through­out the West­ern Hockey League this week­end, the mes­sage was re­ceived.

Bat­tling for top spot in the Cen­tral Divi­sion stand­ings head­ing into the week­end, the Oil Kings won three games in three nights to take sole po­si­tion of first place.

They so­lid­i­fied the spot at Rogers Place on Sun­day with a con­vinc­ing 4-1 win against the Leth­bridge Hur­ri­canes, who went into the week­end with a three-point lead over the Oil Kings in the divi­sion stand­ings.

“It was great, Fri­day night we had a re­ally good start and (Sun­day), I thought we showed a lot of char­ac­ter, we got in at 5 a.m., and we re­ally gut­ted it out against a good team,” said Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer. “We played three games against good teams and our guys did a re­ally good job.”

A pair of wins over Leth­bridge and an­other, on the road, against the Medicine Hat Tigers, has Ed­mon­ton in the cat­bird seat. They are a point up on the Hur­ri­canes and two up on the Red Deer Rebels at the top of the divi­sion.

Two goals from Liam Keeler and oth­ers from Vince Loschi­avo and Trey Fix-wolan­sky paced the Oil Kings to vic­tory Sun­day. Goal­tender Todd Scott made 23 saves in the win.

It was Keeler’s first multi-goal game of his two-year WHL ca­reer.

“Yeah, it was pretty nice,” said Keeler, 17. “It was a pretty quick start for us, which was nice. I think we needed that af­ter that long travel. It was a re­ally good start and I was happy we could get the win.”

Keeler opened the scor­ing 11:43 into the first pe­riod, tip­ping in a point shot from de­fence­man Ethan Cap past Hur­ri­canes goal­tender Liam Hughes.

Keeler scored again two and-a-half min­utes later, set up by Fix-wolan­sky on a short-handed two-on-one rush.

“It’s im­por­tant to get off to a good start in that game, ob­vi­ously the legs don’t feel very good in that first pe­riod and in the back of your mind you know that fa­tigue is go­ing to hit pretty quick,” Keeler said. “If you can get ahead and kind of sim­plify your game from that point on, it’s a big start.”

Loschi­avo scored on a break­away five min­utes into the sec­ond pe­riod to put the Oil Kings in con­trol of the con­test. Fix-wolan­sky added a fourth three min­utes into the third.

Play­ing their third game in three nights as well and trav­el­ling in from Leth­bridge, the Hur­ri­canes did not have enough in the tank to mount a come­back. Jake Elmer scored on the power play eight min­utes into the third to ruin Scott’s bid for a first WHL shutout, but it was all Leth­bridge could muster.

“We’re re­ally happy to be able to win three-in-three,” Fix-wolan­sky said. “I thought our guys han­dled it re­ally well. We played two re­ally good road games and still had lots in the tank to play a good game (Sun­day).”

The Oil Kings started the week­end with a 5-1 win against the Hur­ri­canes in Leth­bridge on Fri­day. Scott Atkin­son scored twice, while Loschi­avo, Keeler, and Jalen Luypen added the oth­ers. Scott made 24 saves in the win.

The fol­low­ing night, the Oil Kings trav­elled to Medicine Hat and pulled out a 2-1 over­time vic­tory over the Tigers. Loschi­avo scored the OT win­ner just over two min­utes into the ex­tra frame. David Kope also scored and goal­tender Dy­lan Myskiw made 20 saves in the vic­tory.

SET­TLING THE SCORE

Fight­ing is down in the WHL as it is in most leagues these days.

How­ever, Oil Kings for­ward Ai­dan Law­son, 17, and Hur­ri­canes for­ward Scott Ma­hovlich, 19, went old school with a spir­ited bout in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Ma­hovlich took ex­cep­tion to be­ing plas­tered by Law­son just af­ter tak­ing a shot from the right face­off cir­cle on a rush down the wing.

Ma­hovlich went slid­ing into the cor­ner boards heav­ily. He got up and caught up with Law­son just in front of the Hur­ri­canes net and the two threw down.

It was Law­son’s first WHL fight and he was given the de­ci­sion af­ter land­ing a num­ber of right-hand bombs be­fore the lines­men jumped in to break up the pair.

MORE ROOM IN CREASE

There is a lit­tle more breath­ing room in the Oil Kings net with the trade of goal­tender Bos­ton Bilous to the Prince Al­bert Raiders ear­lier in the week.

The Oil Kings had been car­ry­ing three goal­tenders since Scott re­turned from an an­kle in­jury sus­tained just prior to the start of the sea­son.

Scott’s in­jury forced the Oil Kings to trade for Myskiw, who has been ex­cel­lent for the Oil Kings this sea­son.

Now healthy, Scott and Myskiw are prov­ing to be a for­mi­da­ble tan­dem.

“Bos­ton was a great guy, he’s a great goalie and even with three goalies, there was al­ways healthy com­pe­ti­tion and it was al­ways fun to come to the rink,” Scott said. “I wish him the best of luck in PA and mov­ing for­ward with Myskiw, I think it’s go­ing to be good. We’re go­ing to sup­port each other and back each other up the rest of the way.”

GREG SOUTHAM/POST­MEDIA

Liam Keeler cel­e­brates his first goal against the Leth­bridge Hur­ri­canes dur­ing last night’s game at Rogers Place.

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