Oil Kings get whacked

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

They beat them earlier this season, but it wasn't the same team.

With all their NHL draftees back in the lineup - including Edmonton Oilers first rounder Alex Plante - the Calgary Hitmen make a formidable opponent.

And yesterday, they were simply too much for the Edmonton Oil Kings to handle, winning 7-2 in a matinee encounter at Rexall Place.

"The outcome is what it is," said Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau. "We got our butts whipped 7-2. We're a better team than that and we have a lot of work to do."

Defenceman Michael Stone led the way offensively for the Hitmen with a pair of goals and an assist. The Phoenix Coyotes third-round pick in last summer's NHL Entry Draft, drifted a couple of point-shots past Oil Kings starting goaltender Cam Lanigan.

The rookie puck stopper struggled yesterday and was beat on three long-range efforts and a wraparound.

Lanigan made 31 saves in the contest, but failed to make the big ones when the Oil Kings were trying to mount a comeback.

"You can always use a big save, but you have to give those guys credit," said Pleau. "When they shot the puck it was to scoring areas. You want your goalie to take away the lower half of the net. But when Stone threw the puck at the net, he threw it high and it found a corner. It doesn't look like a skilled play, but it's a darn good play by a skilled defenceman at this level - to get shots through like that and to have them labelled to the top corner. That's the way I read that."

It was the third meeting between the two teams this season.

Early in the year, the Oil Kings split a pair of games in a home-and-home encounter. Since then the Hitmen have gone on to post the best record in the Western Hockey League.

"That's a darn good Calgary team," Pleau said. "I think we underestimated them a little bit, because we played them early in the year and they were missing some guys.

"What I really liked about them was their speed through the neutral zone. That really pushed us back and we weren't ready for that in the first 10 minutes, that really put us on our heels. I thought we came back a little bit and tried to get our game going, but it was obviously too late."

Brett Sonne - the St. Louis Blues third-round pick in 2007 - opened the scoring in the first period for the Hitmen banging in a rebound past Lanigan. Stone made it 2-0 with a seeing-eye point shot that the Oil Kings goaltender did not see, but heard whiz past him.

The Hitmen outshot the Oil Kings 15-8 in the frame, an all-too-familiar story for Edmonton, who have constantly had to battle back after getting off to slow starts this season.

"We've gone over that time and time again and we're still working on it; it's a work in progress," said Oil Kings captain Jeff Lee. "We have to find a way. We're not sure what it is yet, but we're going to find it and address it.

"We're addressing it and we're going to try and change it."

In the second, the Oil Kings came out with more jump but a wraparound goal by Brandon Kozun took some of the fight out of the home side.

They cut into the lead later in the frame when Tomas Vincour scored a power-play marker from in tight. But a long slapshot from defenceman Paul Postma restored the Hitmen's three-goal lead.

Kyle Bortis made it 5-1 on a breakaway, essentially putting the game out of reach, while Brendan Rowinski snapped a shot over Lanigan's shoulder to round out the scoring in the frame.

In the third, Oil Kings rookie Logan Proulx scored on a penalty shot for his first career WHL goal. Proulx, 17, broke away on a short-handed breakaway and was hooked by Plante to earn the shot.

He went in and beat Hitmen goaltender Martin Jones low to the glove side. Stone then rounded out the scoring.

"It's good to get my first goal, but it's really no consolation," Proulx said. "We need to keep working hard and try to stay positive in the room."

Last season, Proulx was awarded a penalty shot - on the road against the Medicine Hat Tigers - and missed.

"There, I tried to go five-hole and didn't put it in," Proulx said. "This time I thought I would try a little harder, bear down a little bit and put it in.

"I was going in knowing I was going to shoot, but he gave me room on the glove side, so I put it there."


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