BRANDON, MB — The Edmonton Oil Kings went into the opening game of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals Thursday minus their top centre and second leading scorer Lane Bauer. They just kept on marching anyway and marched themselves right into a 1-0 series lead shocking the Wheat Kings 4-2.
Goals from Andrew Koep, Ben Carroll, Jesse Roach and Brandon Baddock and 39 saves from Payton Lee helped the Oil Kings shift the momentum in their favour.
“I think mindset is always a major part of the playoffs,” said head coach Steve Hamilton. “Understanding that it is a clean slate. We’ve got a lot of experience in our room and guys aren’t really shaken by big situations. They just sort of go about their business.”
The first period in the 2016 WHL Playoffs was an entertaining one. Just nine seconds in Duncan Campbell fired one off a post and Reid Duke deposited the rebound behind a stunned Payton Lee. However 54 seconds later Andrew Koep took a beautiful drop pass from Davis Koch and evened things up.
The Oil Kings had a glorious chance to go ahead when Brett Pollock sprung in alone on a breakaway and was tripped up leading to the all-exciting penalty shot. Pollock went in and clanked one off the post.
The Wheat Kings young phenom Nolan Patrick gave the home team a 2-1 lead heading to the dressing room after one when he roofed a shot after being left alone in the slot.
The second period saw no scoring and not a lot of chances by either team and just one penalty late in the period when Brandon Baddock crushed a pair of Wheat Kings getting signaled for interference.
Edmonton came out and looked like a new team in the third scoring three times unanswered and shutting down the Brandon attack. Carroll took a cross ice pass from Anatolii Elizarov and one-timed it past Papirny to get things rolling. A few minutes later the line of Jesse Roach, Luke Bertolucci and Tyler Robertson came together and Roach tucked in a Robertson pass for the eventual game-winning goal. Baddock added the insurance marker at 12:22 to send the Wheat Kings crowd home stunned.
“It’s huge. To come into their barn and take that first game,” said Carroll. “With that 2-3-2 setup especially that is massive for us.”
Carroll said the quick goal by Brandon stung but the Oil Kings were able to bounce back and stay with the game plan.
“We took our guys and took a step back. We realized we were going to be fine and we can handle it.”
Baddock thought the team “weathered the storm” and kept on pressing for the win.
“Obviously they are a high powered team. They are going to get goals and they are going to get lots of shots but we just have to keep pushing.”
The Oil Kings will have less than 24 hours to enjoy the win and come back in search of a second victory to bring the series home to Edmonton with a 2-0 lead. Game time is 6:30pm MT at the Westman Communications Group Place.
The 2015-16 Edmonton Oil Kings season is presented by Insight Insurance and Risk Management.