Ice meet match in Oil Kings

Edmonton earns bragging rights between top junior clubs


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The Winnipeg Ice’s early season domination hit a wall Wednesday night, slamming head first into a seemingly unstoppable force that is the Edmonton Oil Kings.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2021 (298 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Ice’s early season domination hit a wall Wednesday night, slamming head first into a seemingly unstoppable force that is the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Edmonton, boasting a lineup laden with star power that includes four first-round NHL draft picks, turned up the heat early against the Ice and hammered out a 3-2 WHL triumph in a battle of Canada’s top two major-junior teams at Wayne Fleming Arena.

The one-goal margin probably flattered the hosts, who were outshot 37-27. Goaltender Gage Alexander was Winnipeg’s best player.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg Ice Jakin Smallwood tries to control the puck as players scramble in front of the Edmonton Oil Kings goal at Wayne Fleming arena in Winnipeg, Wednesday.

Nevertheless, it still took defenceman Kaiden Guhle’s power-play goal to break a 2-2 tie with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period to lift the visitors to victory.

Guhle’s winner came at the tail-end of a five-minute power play that came courtesy of a play in which Ice forward Sequoia Swan leveled Guhle with a big hit and was tagged for a five-minute interference major and ejected.

“I think our guys were excited — it was the same the last time we played them,” said Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer. “I mean, we’re rated one-two (in the Canadian Hockey League). For me, it means nothing but for kids, it’s something and it’s a little motivation for our guys.

“I think our guys played hard and I really liked the way we competed and made things difficult. We established the forecheck, got contact when we needed to and I thought we played a really, really good game. For us, that was probably our best 60 minutes in a long time.”

Simon Kubicek and Josh Williams also scored power-play goals for the No. 2-ranked visitors, who lead the Central Division with a 19-4-2-1 record.

Nolan Orzeck and Skyler Bruce scored for East Division-leading Winnipeg, which lost its second consecutive game on home ice and dropped to 22-3-1-0 overall.

The Oil Kings are big, mobile and have a physical edge the Ice couldn’t match.

“They skate well and they are physical team and they’re real hard on the puck,” said Ice head coach James Patrick. “They’ve got a big defence and they all skate well. So we know they’re a real good team. I actually thought… we raised our physical game.”

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Sebastian Cossa keeps a close eye on the puck during the first period.

Jalen Luypen appeared to give the visitors a 2-1 lead at 15:34 of the middle period but the goal was overturned when a video review revealed that Luypen had high-sticked Winnipeg’s Matt Savoie earlier on the play. A bloodied Savoie was helped off the ice while Luypen headed to the penalty box to serve a double minor.

Savoie returned in the third period.

Orzeck, meanwhile, liked his club’s willingness to keep the game close.

“We had our looks so it just came down to the bounces,” said Orzeck. “We had a couple of tips that went high, a couple shots just missed the net. I think if we get a couple better bounces, it’s a different game.”

Edmonton was 3-for-4 with a man advantage while Winnipeg’s league-leading power play was scoreless in four chances.

The Oil Kings will play in Brandon Friday before returning to Winnipeg to face the Ice again Saturday night.

“Hockey’s physical, every game in this league is physical,” said Orzeck. “Some more than others but I think just getting rest and being aware of how your body feels after is huge. They play hard, so it’s always gonna be physical game against them.”

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Edmonton Oil Kings center Cole Miller and Winnipeg Ice center Owen Pederson chase down the puck.

When the Oil Kings return, however, it will be without No. 1 goaltender Sebastian Cossa, Guhle and forwards Dylan Guenther and Jake Neighbours who are all off to the national junior team selection camp in Calgary.

Winnipeg defenceman Carson Lambos, who did not play Wednesday due to an upper-body injury, and newly acquired centre Jack Finley, who was in transit to Alberta, will also join Team Canada.

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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