March 15, 2014, Red Deer (ISN) – For the third straight year the Edmonton Oil Kings are on top of the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
Edmonton (50-18-2-1) secured top spot with a 7-4 victory over the Red Deer Rebels Saturday night in Red Deer, scoring five power-play goals. The win also gave the Oil Kings their third-straight 50-win season, the first franchise to accomplish the feat since the 1989-1992 Kamloops Blazers.
“To be honest, we expected to hopefully be in the top four, and finishing first just shows us the growth of our kids here,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “We did a good job, the kids responded well. We figured we could get 40-plus wins, and to get 50 just shows you the commitment of the players.”
The power play was the star of the show for the Oil Kings Saturday, scoring on five straight chances to erase an early 2-0 Red Deer lead and finish 5-8 on the evening.
“We made a couple changes and the guys really responded to it,” Laxdal said of the man advantage. “Shooting pucks and going to the net hard: it’s a simple formula, so hopefully we can bottle that up and move forward with it.”
Curtis Lazar and Henrik Samuelsson each had two goals and two assists, while Cody Corbett joined the four-point brigade with a goal and three helpers. Corbett eclipsed the Oil Kings franchise mark for career points for a defenceman with the effort, leaving him with 129 on his career and breaking a tie with Mark Pysyk. Samuelsson now has 95 points on the season, the second-highest mark ever for an Oil King, while Lazar reached the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career with his first tally.
“I thought Curtis and Sammy were outstanding tonight. I thought they did a good job of competing,” Laxdal said. “For us, those are the emotional leaders on the ice. When they’re going, it picks everybody up.”
Mitch Moroz and Edgars Kulda scored the other goals for Edmonton, hitting 35 and 30 respectively on the season, while Dysin Mayo had three assists for the Oil Kings.
Tristan Jarry made 26 saves for his 44th win of the season, also a new Oil Kings single-season record, in 63 starts, while Patrik Bartosak stopped 35 shots in a losing effort for the Rebels.
Connor Bleackley led the scoring for Red Deer, setting up a pair of goals, while Aspen Sterzer had a goal and an assist. Haydn Fleury, Rhyse Dieno and Vukie Mpofu also scored for the home side.
The win solidifies the Oil Kings’ position in the standings, but their first round playoff opponent is still to be decided. The Oil Kings and Rebels will square off again Sunday with major implications on who Edmonton will face in the first round of the playoffs and whether they will make them at all.
Red Deer now trails Prince Albert by two points for the final playoff spot, but a win Sunday will give force the Rebels and Raiders into a play-in game for eighth place, with the Oil Kings facing the winner in the first round.
Puck drop is scheduled for 4 p.m. on the Fan Appreciation Night Sunday, with over 4000 giveaways, including a brand new Dodge Grand Caravan that anyone in the building has a chance to win.