Hitmen, Oil Kings draw Battle lines

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The WHL's version of the Battle of Alberta is still in its infancy.

The Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings don't have the kind of history that causes a series to spontaneously combust.

The Oil Kings, after all, are in their second year of existence.

The two teams have met just 14 times, with Calgary winning 11 times.

To suggest the Central Division foes are bitter rivals based solely on geography is inaccurate.

But like every other Calgary-Edmonton matchup -- whether it's Flames/Oilers, Stampeders/Eskimos or Roughnecks/Rush -- this one will likely develop some bad blood.

And Hitmen bench boss Dave Lowry wouldn't mind seeing it start tonight in Game 1 of the playoffs (7 p.m. at the 'Dome, Fan 960).

"We're hoping that it brings some intensity and some excitement," Lowry said. "Obviously, the rivalry between the Flames and the Oilers in the '80s is pretty hard to duplicate.

"You can see it now with the Flames and Oilers. It's not quite where it used to be.

"But hopefully, this can gain some momentum."

Assistant coach Joel Otto was right in the middle of those old-school Flames- Oilers bloodbaths.

The former Flames centre said a playoff series can go a long way in developing a rivalry.

"Anytime you have a playoff series against any opponent, you play them enough times that bad blood develops," Otto said.

"Things start to get a little personal. But that's good for hockey. We're lucky because hockey is that kind of a game.

"I'm not saying things will get out of hand, but there will be hitting, fighting for position, all kinds of things. You get to know your opponent real quick."

Hitmen goaltender Martin Jones, who had a franchise-record 45 wins during the regular season, said facing a 'rival' just adds to the intensity that already accompanies playoff hockey.

"It's nice to get into those intense games and play those rivals," he said. "It's always a lot more fun when you get that atmosphere.

"It's going to be a good series and maybe we'll get a bit of a rivalry (going), but we're just going to concentrate on our game and execute our gameplan."

The Oil Kings finished 55 points behind the Hitmen in the standings.

And they needed to play a one-game showdown, which required overtime, in Prince Albert to even get into the post-season.

So, they have to be tired. But they're also riding an emotional high.

"We're hoping they're exhausted," Lowry said. "We were hoping that (Tuesday's game) would have went a couple of periods longer.

"But we know in the playoffs, emotion and adrenaline can push you through.

"This is the first time in the playoffs for their franchise, so they're going to be excited."

Hitmen winger Ian Schultz expects the Oil Kings to come out hard tonight.

"They're coming off a big win, so they'll be riding their emotion really high," Schultz said. "We've been relaxing and getting ready for this big game for awhile.

"It could get very heated like a stereotypical Calgary-Edmonton rivalry, so you never know what can happen."


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