Lee's become a leader

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

It's an indication of Jeff Lee's play this season, and perhaps the Edmonton Oil Kings' struggles around the net in their inaugural year.

Heading into last night's game against the Chilliwack Bruins, the Oil Kings captain was two points away from setting a new franchise scoring standard for a season.

Lee had a team-high 38 points going into the contest against the Bruins, which the Oil Kings dropped 3-1 despite outshooting the visitors 43-20.

Last season, the Calgary native finished the year with 19 points.

"I've been an offensive player in the past," Lee said.

"I know it's always been there, but as I went up through the different levels I became sort of a shutdown guy -- I was playing more of a defensive role.

"Now I've come here and they've put me in more of an offensive role.

"It might have taken me a little bit of time to switch into that role, but now it has and I feel really comfortable. It's been working out great."

Lee, 20, was expected to provide experience and leadership to the second-year Western Hockey League club.

A former member of the AJHL's Drayton Valley Thunder, Lee played a year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks before leaving school and joining the Oil Kings last season.

Last night, like the rest of his teammates, he was stymied by the play of Bruins goaltender Mark Friesen and kept off the scoreboard.

Michael Burns was the only Oil Kings able to beat Friesen tipping a point shot past the Bruins goaltender.

Scott Ramsay and Kevin Sundher, with a pair, scored for the Bruins.

Having been passed over in the NHL Entry Draft, Lee is hoping his newfound scoring touch will help him move on to the next level.

At six-foot-two, 209-pounds he has the size to play pro hockey.

He's also show strong leadership abilities on and off the ice, essentially inspiring his teammates to follow his example.

Due in large part to Lee's play this season, the Oil Kings are within striking distance of a playoff spot with just a little under half a season left to play.

Last night they failed to pick up a valuable two points against an opponent that had come in with only two road wins all season.

Tomorrow they play host to the Lethbridge Hurricanes (2 p.m.), a team they're chasing for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a young team, so I think it's important for them to see a guy that is willing to sacrifice off the ice and on the ice," said head coach Steve Pleau.

"Now they're seeing that sacrifice turn into success for him and that's great for our young guys to see.

"I knew he would be on our top two lines, but I thought his physical play, his skating ability and getting in deep on the forecheck would be predominantly what he brings to the club.

"I certainly didn't think he would have 38 point in our first 37 games."

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THREE STARS

MARK FRIESEN, BRUINS

Stole this one for his team with an outstanding goaltending performance, finishing with 42 saves.

KEVIN SUNDHER, BRUINS

Sniped a pair of third-period goals to seal the victory.

MICHAEL BURNS, OIL KINGS

Was finally able to tip a shot past Friesen in the third period after being stymied on a couple of good chances earlier.

WHY THEY LOST

The Oil Kings ran into a hot goalie and weren't able to maintain their momentum after finally beating Mark Friesen early in the third period. That goal triggered a cascade of stuffed animals on Teddy Bear Toss night, but after the ice was cleared, the Bruins notched two more goals to seal the win.

PLAY OF GAME

The Oil Kings got caught puck-watching, allowing Ryan Howse and Kevin Sundher to get behind their defence. Howse made a perfect cross-ice pass that Sundher deposited behind Torrie Jung to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

SAVE OF GAME

Edmonton forward Robin Soudek circled behind the net, then waltzed out front and appeared to have the top corner picked on Friesen. But the Chilliwack goalie was able to slide across and get his glove up to tip the shot over the net.


Photos