March 19, 2011
Oil Kings downed 4-3 in battle
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
Knowing they will meet in the playoffs, the Edmonton Oil Kings let the Red Deer Rebels know they aren't a bunch of pushovers, even though 30-odd points separate them in the standings.
And it didn't take them long to spread the message at Rexall Place on Friday night, with three fights in the opening seven minutes.
But the biggest battle went to the Rebels, who won 4-3 and will host the Oil Kings in Red Deer Saturday for the regular-season finale.
"It feels like the playoffs right now with how that game went. At the start of the game, we said let's make it a war and that's exactly what we did," said Colton Stephenson. "We know we can play with them, we've just got to grind them down.
"Our smaller guys are starting to go after their bigger guys. That just shows our commitment level."
Trailing 4-2 with four minutes left in the third period, Oil Kings left-winger Dylan Wruck steered home his team-leading 38th goal of the season to pull within one to the delight of the 12,960 in attendance — the largest of the season in their final home show of league play.
Then captain Mark Pysyk dove to disrupt what would have been an empty-netter to keep it close and send some unfinished business into Red Deer.
"We waited until the last minute again, but we got back in the game with a goal there and the last two minutes we had some chances but couldn't get them by," Wruck said. "That's the way it goes, but I thought we played an overall good game."
The Oil Kings were first on the scoreboard just over six minutes into the first period when centre Travis Ewanyk chased a pass off the boards by right-winger Cameron Abney, moving it past Rebels defenceman Brad Deagle and wiring it mesh-side.
But Red Deer carried a 2-1 lead into the second period with goals by centres Byron Froese and Ryan Nugent-Hopins, who slapped home a drop pass from Colten Mayor.
The Rebels added to their lead five minutes into the middle set on a long wrister by Red Deer captain Colin Archer. The period ended with some extra-curricular activities that caused the officials to intervene, as well as a 3-1 lead for the visitors.
"It was an intense game," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. "We're going to meet in the playoffs now because Brandon lost (to Moose Jaw, 2-1 in a shootout Friday).
"Our guys played hard and I thought we maybe could have had a save here or there on a couple goals but our guys never said die and battled back to have a chance to tie it up."
A little over two minutes into the final frame, Froese redirected a high Justin Weller shot from the point for his second of the game.
Oil Kings right-winger T.J. Foster took a pass off the faceoff from Curtis Lazar and converted it into a goal to trail 4-2 with 15 minutes left to play.
"After (Saturday) night, everybody's 0-0 going into playoffs and we can play with them," Laxdal said. "We're going to be the underdog in this series. They've got the best forward and goaltender in the league, but give our guys credit, they battled hard (Friday) night."