Oil Kings gaining confidence

The Edmonton Oil Kings their win against the Shawinigan Cataractes after their Memorial Cup match...

The Edmonton Oil Kings their win against the Shawinigan Cataractes after their Memorial Cup match at the Centre Boinest in Shawinigan, Que., May 18, 2012. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:30 PM ET

SHAWINIGAN, QUE. - Saturday night changed everything.

After the London Knights needed just 60 minutes to transform the defending champion Saint John Sea Dogs from super-humans to mere mortals, almost everyone at the Mastercard Memorial Cup came to the same sudden realization.

"This thing is up for grabs."

It's no longer Saint John's to lose. It's anyone's to win.

And, hey, the Edmonton Oil Kings are anyone.

"Coming in, we hadn't seen these teams so we didn't really know what to expect," said Edmonton winger Rhett Rachinski. "Saint John is a great team and we'll have to come out with our best effort Monday, but at the same time London kind of showed that you can beat them, they're not immortals out there.

"We feel like it's anyone's tournament at this point. Anybody can beat anybody out there. It depends who gets hot at the right time and who comes together as a team. Whoever plays their best hockey at key moments is going to be the team that comes out on top."

As the Boston Red Sox once said, 'Why not us?'

"Absolutely," said Kings winger T.J. Foster. "We knew that coming in. We had to win our league to get out, and it's a tough league. We're confident in ourselves and our game plan. If we stick to that we give ourselves a good chance."

Edmonton, quite frankly, wasn't really supposed to be here. Not yet, anyway. Their program is actually geared to peak next season, but they look ready enough for prime time right now.

They took down host Shawinigan in the opening game of the tournament, and the Cataractes, second in the QMJHL, had a winning record against Saint John.

"We're a pretty confident group," said Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk. "In the room we believe that we can accomplish anything if we put our best foot forward.

"I don't think we're surprising ourselves. It was our goal to get here and win a Memorial Cup and everybody in the room believed in each other. Next year was supposed to be the big year we're gearing up towards, but you never know what's going to happen.

"This could be once in a lifetime. That's why our coach is always telling us that you never know when another chance is going to come around, so you have to seize the opportunity."

While the pre-tourney favourite is showing cracks, there is still a long way to go before championship Sunday, and nobody wants to get too far ahead of themselves. Maybe all that loss to London did was make Saint John mad.

"They're a great team, I'm sure they're going to bounce back hard on Monday," said Foster. "They have a lot of pride and they didn't lose many games during the regular season and definitely not many in a row. They're going to be hungry for a win."

Saint John is still a team that went 50-15-3 in the regular season and 16-1 in the playoffs and has 11 NHL draft picks on its roster. And now they are desperate, promising their best game of the year against Edmonton.

"I know Edmonton beat Shawinigan the other night, so they're a good team," said Sea Dogs winger Tomas Jurco. "But I don't really care who we play against, if we play really good we can beat anyone."

And they intend on beating Edmonton.

"We do," said Sea Dogs centre Stephen MacAulay, adding 0-2 is not an option. "It's not do or die yet, but it's pretty close."

The Oil Kings will learn a lot about where they stand over the next 48 hours.

"We have a big test coming up with two games in two nights, Saint John and London, so we'll have to be ready," said Curtis Lazar. "We just have to stick to our Oil King brand of hockey and we'll be fine."

Twitter.com/Sun_Tychkowski

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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