Oil Kings drop home opener to southern rivals

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, Last Updated: 1:20 PM ET

Battle of Alberta or battle of first-line centres?

Actually, the WHL season opener between the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings came down to a battle of "late goals they'd like to have back" by two of the Dub's best 'tenders.

With five minutes left in the game with the Hitmen just taking a 2-1 lead, Oil Kings centre Brent Raedeke blew one past Hitmen goalie Martin Jones.

A nice shot but Jones did have a clear look at it.

Not so nice for Torrie Jung a minute later when Hitmen power forward Ian Schultz barged over Tyler Hlookoff and saw the puck slide under Jung's right foot.

"I got caught cheating because they had a guy going backdoor and I figured we were going to end up playing that guy one-on-one," said Jung.

"I thought for the majority of the game we dictated the play. So, yeah, it was a tough way to lose at the end."

Oil Kings head coach Steve Pleau obviously wasn't about to throw his No. 1 goalie under the bus.

"I thought when we tied it 2-2, we did a great job of bouncing right back. It was a great play by Raedeke. But then we made a couple of mental mistakes and they had that experience ... that mental toughness, that experience of being in a 1-1 game and doing the right things at the right time. They come down, they beat one of our guys one-on-one, they poke it in the net and that's the game.

"But I thought Torrie was fine," said Pleau, referring to a second-period play when Calgary's top-line centre burst in on a penalty-kill breakaway.

"I know (Brandon) Kozun shot it wide, but (Jung) was in great positon and didn't bite on anything. That could have changed the game there."

Kozun was instrumental in the 2-1 goal, orchestrating a classic tic-tac-toe with linemates Misha Fisenko and goal-scorer Tyler Fiddler.

"That guy is in on everything," Pleau said of Kozun.

After the first period fans might have wondered if the two teams had switched uniforms, with followers of junior hockey well aware of the dominance in this Battle of Alberta for the past two years by the southern side.

The Oil Kings left with a 1-0 lead on a goal by Czech winger Tomas Vincour. And they also left the period with a 12-5 edge in shots. Jung's staredown of Kozun's breakaway in the second was the first serious threat he faced.

"Our first period was the way we want to play," said Pleau. "We played that way in one period and then in spurts.

"The one thing that disappoints me is that they played (Friday) night and we didn't and we weren't able to get on them in the third.

"I mean, we're at home, it's 1-1 going into the third and we should be able to come out with a good 20 minutes and find a way to win."

DAVID.CAMERON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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