PLUS First in Central
Oil Kings take over top spot in Central Division
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.”
Liam Keeler celebrates his first goal against the Lethbridge Hurricanes during last night’s game at Rogers Place.