With three games to go before a long and gruelling road trip through BC, the Oil Kings were looking to grab as many points as they could as they closed out their homestand.
That started with a matchup against the Regina Pats on Sunday. The shook off the rust that came with their six-day break and played a really strong game against the Pats. They skated with one of the best teams in the league and generated some solid offensive looks. They even held their own in their defensive end, but a horrendous ten-minute stretch to end the second period resulted in Regina scoring three unanswered powerplay goals.
Discipline and a weak penalty kill sunk the Oil Kings ship and they dropped this one by a score of 5-3.
The special team struggles continued into the game against Seattle on Thursday. This time it was the powerplays turn to cost them a game as they went 0/5 with the man advantage.
Steve Hamilton wasn’t pleased with his group’s special teams effort “Powerplay killed us tonight. We were so perimeter and casual. There was no urgency” he said in his postgame availability.
Apart from special teams, the team actually played a solid 60 minutes. They outshot the Thunderbirds 31-19 but just couldn’t find the back of the net more than once. While outshooting the opposition looks good on the scoresheet, too many Oil Kings were passengers tonight.
“We just allow ourselves to be on the outside, not getting to that hard inside ice,” added Hamilton “That’s a choice, no one takes a stride in their skates but the player himself. There’s no amount of coaching, video, motivation, those kind of things, that can change a players’ choices”.
The fourth-year Oil Kings Head Coach was getting frustrated with his group dropping yet another close decision.
“At times we rely on hoping things work out offensively and hope’s not a strategy”.
Looking to avoid dropping a fourth straight game on home ice, the Oil Kings will host the Saskatoon Blades tonight for Star Wars Night.
The Blades aren’t off to a particularly hot start and actually serve as a decent match-up given the current state of the Oil Kings. With a sputtering offense, Edmonton will go up against a team whose two goalies both have GAA’s above 3.50.
This could also be a chance for their special teams to break out a bit. Edmonton’s currently 16th in the WHL on the power play and will be going up against a Saskatoon penalty kill that’s second last in the league. The flip side of that special teams matchup will see a Blades powerplay working at just 16.7% go up against the Oil Kings penalty kill, which is dead last at just 66.7%.
This isn’t a marquee matchup by any means, but the atmosphere around Star Wars Night combined with an Oil Kings team that’s desperate for two points should create an entertaining 60 minutes of hockey.
New King On The Block
Earlier in the week the Oil Kings made a deal with the Saskatoon Blades acquiring 18-year-old defenseman Jantzen Leslie in exchange for a conditional 8th round draft pick.
Leslie has appeared 82 WHL games between the Blades and Everett Silvertips in his career and had never scored a goal. That changed last night during his Oil Kings debut when his point shot bounced off a leg in front and found the back of the net. His first WHL goal, in his first game with the team.
“I’m more of a tough, shutdown guy, those goals aren’t going to come much but I’ll be happy when they come,” said Leslie after the game.
As for what Oil Kings fans can expect going forward from the newest member of their blueline, Steve Hamilton shared his thoughts, “He’s a competitive kid. He made some good decisions with the puck, had a simple approach to his game, had some physicality too, which is what we’re hoping for”.
With Wyatt McLeod injured and Matthew Robertson away at the U-17 tournament, Leslie is getting a shot in the top four on a pair with Will Warm. Once everyone is healthy and back with the team, he should be a guy who can eat up tough minutes in a third pairing role.
“He’s a defend first kind of guy, which we can use more off” added Hamilton.
As for what Jantzen hopes he can bring to a young d-core?
“Just keep it simple. That’s my game.” answered the Lloydminster product.
A short answer for a d-man who’s hoping his play on the ice speaks for itself.