Oil Kings shot down

CRASH CAMERON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:48 PM ET

You can imagine how large the guy looked.

Both Michael St. Croix and Josh Lazowski have to physically look up a few inches at Kootenay Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen.

And his 6-foot-5 wingspan seemed to loom even larger as he darkened the shootout attempts by both Edmonton Oil Kings to give Kootenay a 4-3 win at Rexall Place on Sunday afternoon.

Not that the Kings couldn’t get the puck past the 19-year-old Ice ’tender.

Lazowski did that just five minutes into the game, a toe-drag beauty on a penalty kill. Then the winger set up Dylan Wruck to tie it at 2s on a two-man advantage late in the first.

TJ Foster made it 3-2 early the second, converting a tap-in past Lieuwen who had gone in the direction o fWruck’s pass towards pinching defenceman Jesse Pearson. Problem was, that would be the last time they climbed over Lieuwen’s fence.

Foster’s first of the season came at the end of a long, strong shift with fellow speedster Wruck and the big man, Cameron Abney.

“We were good out there,” said the 17-year-old out of Slave Lake. “Cam made room for us, Dylan’s an offensive-minded guy and I am, too. We were using our assets and helping each other.”

Abney is the one Oil King that can look at the goalie straight in the eye, but Lieuwen had stared him down moments before the goal.

“Abs had a breakaway and he made a nice save. They transitioned back, but we came back down and Pearson made a really nice pass across the net. I just had my stick on the ice and it went in. Felt good.”

Mixed in with the celebration was, “some relief,” admitted Foster. “I can play now and not have to worry about it.

“A slump, they’re never good. But you just have to do the little things more and build off those.

“Hopefully the floodgates will open.”

That’s something head coach Derek Laxdal would love to see, as well — across the lineup.

It was the second straight game that the Oil Kings put in a plucky effort against a bigger, stronger more experienced team. And the second straight time it ended on the wrong side of the score. (And the sixth straight L after their record five-straight Ws.)

“We can’t fault the kids for trying hard, playing hard. And a shootout is a shootout.”

As in, a crapshoot.

The OK’s powerplay in particular has been OK, but too cute with the passes. In truth, Lieuwen should have been made to make more than the 27 saves.

“Realistically, we don’t have that key powerplay guy on the back end,” said Laxdal.

“Griffin Reinhart, a 16-year-old, is in there. Most teams are running 19-year-olds. Mark Pysyk is not known as a striclty offensive defenceman but we’re giving him opportunities. So you might see us integrate a forward back there.

“But maybe one pass here, one pass there, we can cut back and instead try and put the puck in the net.”

Ill-timed penalties don’t help, said the coach.

“We we’re up 3-2 in the game and we took a bad penalty in front of their net,” he said of a roughing call on Travis Ewanyk. “We’re trying to distill that you have to be discliplined, you have to hold back sometimes.

“It didn’t cost us a game, but it cost us having a 3-2 lead.”

david.cameron@sunmedia.ca


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