The Edmonton Oil Kings may be forced to score goals by committee with no true sniper on their roster, putting extra emphasis on special teams.
In their inaugural pre-season tournament finale last night against the Prince George Cougars, the Oil Kings put on a potent special teams display in their 5-3 win over the Cougars.
The Oil Kings scored three powerplay goals on nine chances limiting Prince George to just one powerplay goal on eight opportunities.
"We haven't even started working on special teams yet, but I thought we did a good job out there," said Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau, who watched from stands last night, while assistant coach Rocky Thompson ran the bench.
Being brand new to the WHL, the Oil Kings had a clear disadvantage during training camp as they try and build some chemistry with line combinations and defensive pairings.
Last night, the line of Craig McCallum, Karey Pieper and Brendan Dowd showed some strong chemistry as they combined for seven points. Leading the way was McCallum, who played trigger man on that line, scoring a hat-trick.
"He had a great opportunity with a breakaway early on and he almost scored then, but he kept working hard and he was able to bury three more after that," said Oil Kings assistant coach Thompson.
McCallum spent last season with the Beardy's Blackhawks of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League, where he scored 85 points in 42 games, including 34 goals.
"He's got a great stick and his stick is as good as I have seen. He has to work on some aspects of his game, but he's money around the net," added Pleau.
The Oil Kings were hungry right from the puck drop, out-shooting the Cougars 12-4 early on and 47-31 overall. The Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Kalvin Sagert and Alex Poulter, but it was clear the Oil Kings had the edge in terms of the all-around play.
"The guys were dangerous all night long and they kept going hard to the net. We fell behind in the first period, but the guys knew they were playing good, they just needed to get that one break," said Thompson.
That break finally came 1:15 into the second period when J.P Szaszkiewicz scored his first of the tournament, beating Cougars netminder with a nice shot from the slot.
Dowd scored the Oil Kings second goal on a nice set up from defenceman Matt Swaby at the 13:48 mark.
McCallum gave the Oil Kings their first lead of the game late in the second period, in what arguably could have been the goal of the tournament. McCallum finished off a nice passing play started by defenceman Lyon Messier.
"I owe a lot to my linemates, they were able to get me the rock in some tough areas and I was just able to finish it off," said MacCallum.
Dalyn Flette rebounded with a nice effort in his second game of the tournament. After a rough outing against his former team, the Kamloops Blazers, the 17-year-old came through big in the second half of the game.
"If I am going to win a job, I have to be able to rebound after a tough game," said Fleete.
"Last night I think I was a little over pumped and the adrenalin was flowing too high for obvious reasons, but tonight I was pretty calm in there."
The Oil Kings released their 15-year-old's left in camp and weren't expected to make any more cuts until later this week.