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Weekly Recap: Oil Kings grind out four game road trip

The Oil Kings are back at home following a four-game road trip that saw them travel through Saskatchewan and Manitoba over the past week.

The trip kicked off on Wednesday against a Wheat Kings team that had already handed them a 7-3 loss just 5 days earlier. The Oil Kings did not get off to the start they were looking for as Brandon scored early and often, quickly jumping out to a 3-0 lead.

While the Oil Kings did get goals from Ethan Cap and Matthew Robertson, it wasn’t enough. A bad penalty allowed Brandon to regain a two-goal lead on the powerplay as a Kale Clague wrist shot got past Josh Dechaine. The Wheat Kings added one more to take this one 5-2.

From the first shift of this one, Brandon was in control, taking advantage of an Oil Kings team that looked sloppy and unorganized. Edmonton got beat in every facet of this game from special teams to goaltending, it was not their night. These types of nights are expected especially against a team like Brandon, so personally, I was more interested in how they would respond the next night in Moose Jaw.

They didn’t rebound the way I had hoped as they took on the former junior team of Ryan Smyth.

A slow start plagued the Oil Kings again as they missed a slew high-quality chances, including a pair of open nets early, and once again quickly found themselves trailing 3-0.

They did find their offence eventually as Colton Kehler got a lucky bounce from behind the Moose Jaw net to quickly make it a 3-1 game. Kehler then continued to make an impact as he found Kobe Mohr at the side of the net, who then finished off a nice passing play to cut the deficit to just one.

That would be as close as Edmonton came, dropping the second game of their road trip by a score of 4-2.

After a day off, the group travelled to Swift Current, where they were finally able to get into the win column, handing the Broncos their first loss of the season.

Once again, they surrendered the first goal of the game in this one. This difference tonight is that they quickly stopped the bleeding, as Brett Kemp threw home a nice shorthanded goal just six minutes later. The momentum did shift back in favour of Swift Current, as the Broncos took advantage of some poor discipline and d-zone coverage in the middle frame and were able to go up 3-1.

It was comeback time for the Oil Kings though, as Davis Koch and Kobe Mohr both threw home their fourth goals of the season. Then, with just seconds remaining, Brett Kemp flew down the wing and completed the comeback with a gorgeous move in tight. A 4-3 final, with 3 goals in the final 7:06 of the game, in what was a major upset by the young Oil Kings group.

They finished off the road trip with another tough task ahead of them in Regina. Edmonton got the first goal of the game for the first time on the road trip as Conner McDonald fired home a powerplay goal. The teams then swapped tallies in the middle frame with Davis Koch putting home his fifth goal of the season.

Poor discipline ended up costing the Oil Kings a win as Regina tied things up with a powerplay goal in the final ten minutes before capitalizing on an too many men penalty in overtime.

Just grabbing a point from a skilled Regina team was impressive and I thought they played a good game considering how tough the first three games of the road trip were. With that being said, it’s always frustrating to see such points slip away simply due to poor discipline.

In the end, the Oil Kings finished 1-2-1, grabbing three of a potential eight points on what was a very tough eastern trip. They come back home sitting third in their division, but it’s worth noting most teams have two or three games in hand on them.

THE GOOD

  • They’re at least improving in the faceoff circle, finishing the road trip at 47%, which is a massive improvement on the 35% they had earlier in the year. When I spoke to Steve Hamilton last week, he stressed the importance of improving this number, “When you chase the play 62% of the time off draws, its a harder game to play”.
  • Travis Child looked better in his starts against Moose Jaw and Swift Current, he stood tall and made some big saves on odd-man rushes, which kept the Oil Kings in the game. They need him to step up and solidify his spot as the #1 goalie, this week he took some steps towards doing just that.
  • They’re starting to get scoring from different parts of their line-up. Conner McDonald potted one and they got a nice week from Brett Kemp. If they can continue to get more than just the duo of Fix-Wolansky and Koch scoring, it will work wonders for the success of the team.
  • It’s not good that they fell down early in those first two games, but they did show some good fight being able to claw back and at least make the games close. You’d rather not have to play from behind, but the team showed that they never go down without a fight.

THE BAD

  • Special teams continue to plague this group. They draw the third most power plays in the league, yet they only score on 19% of those man advantages. They finished the road trip going a measly 2 for 15 with the man advantage. 
  • Same story on the PK. They take too many trips to the box at crucial times in the game, which may be a sign of the inexperience this team has. The penalty kill gave up 5 goals on 17 chances, including the tying goal and OT winner against Regina. 
  • They continue to get trapped in their own end and once the opposition establishes a cycle, the Oil Kings d-zone coverage falls apart. It may come with time and more experience, but for now, it’s costing them wins.
  • They really shot themselves in the foot giving up the first goal in three of the four games. You just force yourself to play catch-up all night, especially in those games where they went down 3-0 off the start.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

FIRST STAR – DAVIS KOCH

He fired home two goals in the final two games of the road trip, which were the only two games the team managed to grab a point. Even when he wasn’t scoring, I felt like he made an impact, finishing the road trip with 21 shots on goal.

SECOND STAR – BRETT KEMP

He was instrumental in the team’s only win against Swift Current scoring a pair of beauty goals. He even managed to score a nice breakaway goal while shorthanded. He found himself on a line with Colton Kehler and Kobe Mohr and the three of them really clicked over the road trip. Hopefully, the solid week from Kemp will give him some extra confidence as the team comes back home.

THIRD STAR – CONNER McDONALD

He continues to show more offensive promise from the blueline, and that was evident over the last week. He finished with a goal and an assist, but also fired 13 shots on goal. He’s starting to make an impact on the power play, but he played responsibly in his own end as well. McDonald continues to grow into a young defender that Steve Hamilton can trust in all situations.

The Oil Kings will be back in action on Wednesday as the Victoria Royal travel to Rogers Place. Puck drop is set for 7 pm.