(ISN) – EDMONTON, ALTA. – The Edmonton Oil Kings are headed to the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
The Oil Kings (33-29-4-3) clinched a playoff spot Friday night in Lethbridge with a 5-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The win, coupled with Moose Jaw’s 4-3 loss to Regina guarantees the Oil Kings will make the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.
“A goal we wanted to work towards was make the playoffs and give ourselves a second chance in the postseason, so that’s a pretty important step,” said Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton, whose team has a hold of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference and sits one point behind Kootenay for the first wildcard.
“We can only be responsible for the quality of our play over the next three games, and that’s going to be our focus. It’s crazy how tight it is within the division.”
Mads Eller had three points to lead the Oil Kings attack, while Patrick Dea made 24 saves for his 10th win of the year. Five different Oil Kings scored as the team hit the five-goal mark for the fifth time in seven games in March.
“I liked our energy today; I thought the guys were energized and committed to the game plan and I thought Patrick was excellent tonight,” Hamilton said.
Eller opened the scoring 9:57 into the first period as he stripped Lethbridge defenceman Kade Jensen of the puck while shorthanded and beat Hurricanes goalie Stuart Skinner with a backhand shot through the five-hole.
Lethbridge responded with a shorthanded goal of their own as Jamal Watson won a footrace to a loose puck and deked it past Dea before the end of the period.
Edmonton regained the lead for good early in the second period as Jake Kohlhauser notched his first career WHL goal, blasting a point shelf over Skinner’s shoulder into the top corner.
Edgars Kulda and Ben Carroll added power-play goals for Edmonton before Tyler Wong cut the lead to 4-2 with 8:43 to play.
Davis Koch restored the three-goal lead 1:25 later as he gloved down an Andrew Koep centring pass and beat Skinner with a backhand. The goal finished off a two-point night for Koch and extended his point streak to a career-high five games.
“It just seems we’re more balanced. We’re getting different contributions from different guys and I think we’ve just embraced the randomness of our offence. Mads’ goal was a prime example: he drove the net hard and then just kind of whacked at it,” Hamilton said.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the maturity of some of our younger guys. Andrew Koep and Davis Koch have really started to identify as key offensive guys for us, and they are guys we rely on on a nightly basis.”
Things got dicey for the Oil Kings late as penalties to Brandon Baddock and Eller 18 seconds apart gave Lethbridge a five-on-three power play with just over six minutes remaining that the Hurricanes turned into a six-on-three by pulling Skinner. However despite heavy pressure, Dea and penalty killers Luke Bertolucci, Blake Orban and Ashton Sautner were able to kill off the three-man advantage to maintain the lead.
“I’ve never in my entire hockey career seen a six-on-three that lasted that long in zone that didn’t result in a goal,” Hamilton said. “That was a great job, and Patrick made some clutch, clutch saves. Those guys were completely gassed at the end of that kill. Full credit to them, they hung in there, tipped some pucks and gave us a chance to kill it off.”
$99 Playoff Passes are available now at OilKings.ca. For one flat price, fans can reserve their seat in the lower bowl at Rexall Place for every home game of the 2015 postseason.
Edmonton is back in action Saturday night as they take on the Medicine Hat Tigers in their final regular season visit to the Medicine Hat Arena.