Rebels nip Oil Kings in season opener

JASON HILL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

Any other year, earning a point on the road against the Red Deer Rebels would be considered an accomplishment.

But not this year. The Edmonton Oil Kings have high expectations as they enter their fifth season in the Western Hockey League. Letting a two-goal lead slip away twice in their season opener Sunday afternoon and losing 4-3 in overtime wasn't the way they had envisioned starting off the 2011-12 campaign.

Edmonton looked in full control through the midway point of the second period, but six straight penalties in a span of 9:22 gave the Rebels three 5-on-3 power plays and it sparked the Rebels offence, which was missing a huge piece in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who's currently away trying to crack the roster of the Edmonton Oilers.

They scored twice on those two-man advantages leading to Rebels newly minted captain Adam Kambeitz scoring his second goal of the game at the 1:24 mark of overtime.

"There's a difference in taking good penalties and bad penalties and we took five undisciplined penalties in a row and it ultimately cost us the lead and cost us a chance to get our energy back," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal.

"You have to work hard to get offence and I don't think our guys worked hard enough in the third period and we'll address it (Monday) in practice."

Josh Lazowski, T.J. Foster and Oil Kings rookie defenceman and Edmonton Oilers draft pick Martin Gernat tallied for Edmonton. John Persson and Colten Mayor scored the first two Red Deer goals.

Lazowski's goal came just 1:41 into the game. The 20-year-old missed 40 games last season with a shoulder injury. The veteran was near a point-per-game pace last year and will be expected to be one of the team's big contributors, along with five of their top six scorers back in the lineup.

"I saw a lot of good things from our young guys, but to be honest with you, our veterans let us down a little bit, not only with their play, but their leadership on the ice," added Laxdal.

"Their job is to establish that energy back in that room. Myself and Steve Hamilton, our job is as coaches, we're not cheerleaders and that is something we're going to address.

"At critical times in the game we took some undisciplined penalties and they were from our second- and third-year guys. It's early, and you talk about being a disciplined team, and your discipline has to come from the top and (veterans) Rhett Rachinski, T.J. Foster and Mark Pysyk took a couple bad penalties and it cost us."

The Oil Kings are poised for their most successful season in their five-year history. Edmonton is expected to compete for a division title this year. Many WHL pundits are pegging them for an extended playoff run. There's no need to panic after Game 1, but this OT loss just stings a little more after getting swept by the Rebels in last season's playoffs.

"We're going to be a better team this year, we'll achieve higher than what we accomplished last year," said Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart.

"But we wanted the win, we wanted to set the tone and get revenge on them for knocking us out of the playoffs last year. This team has been a big road block for us in the past. We'll just keep fighting through it and this rivalry with us and Red Deer is only going to get better."


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