March 22, 2014, Edmonton, AB (ISN) – The Edmonton Oil Kings have plenty of faces who have been to back-to-back WHL Finals, but it was two guys seeing their first WHL playoff action that played hero Saturday afternoon.
Brett Pollock scored a pair and Tyler Robertson had two points, including the game-winning goal, in their first postseason action as the Oil Kings jumped out to a 1-0 series lead with a 5-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders at Rexall Place.
“It was great. Throughout the playoff run, you’re going to have a new hero every night and we had a couple today,” said Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar who set up both of Pollock’s goals and added an empty netter of his own. “That’s the beauty of playoffs: everyone’s going to rise to the challenge.”
Pollock opened the scoring just 3:48 into the game, banking a puck off Prince Albert goaltender Nick McBride’s skate from behind the goal line.
“We got a couple of great chances in the first, and it worked out for me,” Pollock said.
“Tonight it was a chance, kind of a new start starting playoffs here, and I wanted to accept the challenge. … (Coach) challenged me to be better, and I think our line rose to it.”
Josh Morrissey tied it up for the Raiders just minutes later on a long shot that hit an Oil Kings defenceman and deflected past Tristan Jarry in the Edmonton goal, but Dysin Mayo’s goal and Pollock’s second of the night chased McBride after facing just nine shots in 14 minutes of action.
Cole Cheveldave replaced McBride and stopped 32 of 33 shots he faced in the game as Brendan Guhle and Dakota Conroy tallied to tie the game at 3-3 midway through the second.
With just 4.2 seconds left in the middle frame, Robertson redirected a Dysin Mayo pass in the slot for the eventual winner.
“Our team, we have that character and the heart,” Lazar said. “We may not be as skilled as (Oil Kings) teams in the past, but as we saw tonight, we can grind out those one-goal games.”
“I thought it was a good match-up for us tonight,” added Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal.
“Anytime you can win Game 1, (it’s big). The biggest challenges are winning the odd-numbered games.”
Edmonton Jarry made 21 saves to get the win for the Oil Kings in his first playoff start, making some big saves in the third period to preserve the 4-3 Edmonton lead before Lazar iced it with an empty netter.
The Oil Kings and Raiders will go to battle for Game 2 Sunday afternoon at Rexall Place with puck drop scheduled for 4 p.m. It will be another Family Fun Sunday presented by the Edmonton Sun, Motts Fruitsations and Global Edmonton, featuring a kids’ carnival, face painting, balloon animals and more!