(ISN) – EDMONTON, ALTA. – Edmonton Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton wanted better from his team after a 6-2 loss Friday night to the Red Deer Rebels, and he got it in the rematch Saturday in Red Deer.
The Oil Kings (34-31-4-3) notched a 3-2 victory over the Rebels in an intense and physical affair, the sort of game Hamilton hopes bodes well for the upcoming playoffs.
“We were better tonight. We were more consistent throughout the game,” Hamilton said. “We weathered the storm early a little bit in terms of giving up an early goal, but we were able to respond and get the lead again and we played a patient game.
“We’re aware that we need to defend hard, and we’ll need to do the same against Brandon (in the first round). That’s been our area all year that we’ve relied on.”
A night after Edmonton’s power play was taken advantage of by the Rebels penalty killers, it was the Oil Kings’ top rated penalty killing unit that made the difference in the game, preserving the lead as the Oil Kings spent all but 17 seconds of the final 4:25 shorthanded – 2:11 of that down 5-on-3 and 1:26 with the Rebels goaltender pulled.
“I really commend the guys on the penalty kill in the few minutes of the game. It’s not a situation you want to have, but the guys did a great job,” Hamilton said. “We won a couple key faceoffs and Andrew Koep did a great job there. We were able to get a bit of a stand on the entries and had a couple critical clears. When you’re in a situation like that, that’s all you’re looking for.”
Hamilton was forced to look down the bench for penalty killers in that situation with typical five-on-three point men Luke Bertolucci and Lane Bauer both in the press box and veteran penalty killers Dysin Mayo, Edgars Kulda and Brandon Baddock all part of the parade to the penalty box.
“I give credit to those three or four, five guys who rotated through,” Hamilton said. “We like to pride ourselves that we’re pretty deep in guys who kill penalties, and we were starting to stretch our limits. We don’t have a lot of guys with a lot of experience five-on-three and two of them weren’t dressed.”
Brett Pollock opened the scoring for Edmonton with his 32nd goal of the season 4:20 into the game as Rylan Toth couldn’t handle Pollock’s heavy wrist shot and had it bounce off his glove and into the Rebels net.
Presten Kopeck evened the score less than a minute later for the Rebels as he and Brooks Maxwell worked a give-an-go play on the power play.
Davis Koch restored the Edmonton lead at the 7:02 mark of the first period, using a great second effort to deposit his own rebound behind Toth and put the Oil Kings up 2-1, but the Rebels found the equalizer again with 2:02 to play in the first as Adam Musil scored for the home team.
The Oil Kings went ahead for good 6:52 into the second period as Blake Orban found Mads Eller in stride and the Dane blew around a Red Deer defender and ripped a shot past Toth for the eventual winner.
Patrick Dea made 24 saves for his 11th win of the season, while Orban picked up a pair of assists.
Toth stopped 35 of 38 shots he faced in the Red Deer net.
The Oil Kings now head into the playoffs against the Brandon Wheat Kings, the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings secured the Scotty Munro trophy as the top team in the WHL regular season with a 9-2 win over Moose Jaw Saturday night. Game 1 of that series goes Thursday night in Brandon.