March 1, 2014, Edmonton, AB (ISN) – In the first ever Battle of Alberta doubleheader at Rexall Place, it was the southerners striking first blood.
The Calgary Hitmen (43-15-3-4) took advantage of a lacklustre start to down the Edmonton Oil Kings (44-14-2-1) 3-2 Saturday afternoon.
“Sense of urgency. Passion,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal about what the team was missing through the first two period. “I think they’re carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders, and they’ve just got to have some fun and play.”
With Olympians Kaetlyn Osmond, Mike Riddle and Neville Wright honoured before the game, the Hitmen jumped in front before they had even found their seats, as Elliott Peterson got Calgary on the board just 2:26 into the first period. Connor Rankin scored for the Hitmen five minutes later, putting the Oil Kings into a hole they couldn’t dig out of.
“We came out pretty flat. Give credit to Calgary, they came out to a good start, and not until the last shifts of the second period and the third period did we start playing,” said Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart. “That’s kind of been our Achilles heel of late: we’re starting to play good hockey, but it’s too late.
“I think it’s easier to play when you’re down and the pressure’s off of you,” he added. “We’ve got to learn that we’ve got to come out and play that way off the start We can’t keep trying to come back from games.”
Edgars Kulda got Edmonton on the board early in the second period, but Kenton Helgesen responded for Calgary, scoring on the power play as a shot was stopped by Jarry, but the rebound bounced up and off Helgesen’s body for a goal that stood upon review.
Mitch Moroz got the Oil Kings within one with 6:14 to play, but Edmonton couldn’t find the equalizer as Chris Driedger made 38 saves for the win for Calgary.
“I thought we carried the play in the third period, gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Laxdal, whose team outshot Calgary 23-9 in the final period and 40-34 overall. “The last 10 minutes, we had about four or five grade-A scoring chances, and give Driedger credit. He stood his ground.”
Henrik Samuelsson had a pair of assists for Edmonton, and Tristan Jarry stopped 31 of 34 shots faced in a losing effort.
The result gives the Hitmen a two point lead over the Oil Kings in the battle for first place in the WHL Eastern Conference, though the Oil Kings have two games in hand.
Edmonton will be back in action Sunday afternoon as they host the Saskatoon Blades for a 4 p.m. start.