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Hitting the road

“We were a second away from escaping the first penalty kill, we were a second and a half away from escaping the second period and nine seconds away from going to overtime. That’s hard because we talk a lot about finishing the job and a combined 12 seconds feels like an eternity.”

The words of Head Coach Steve Hamilton following another gut-wrenching Oil Kings loss Saturday night that saw his team give up the game-winning goal with just 9.8 seconds remaining in the game.

Despite losing four in a row, Edmonton had been putting together some really solid efforts, but the results simply aren’t coming. That trend continued against Saskatoon.

The Blades were up 1-0 after 20 minutes thanks to a last-second goal in the opening frame, but the Oil Kings deserve credit for not letting that late goal crush them. Just 14 seconds into the second period Trey Fix-Wolansky cut the Blades lead in half.

In the third period, the Oil Kings got an early marker once again as just 27 seconds in Tomas Soustal put home a powerplay goal. Both Soustal and Fix-Wolansky finished the game with two points. They missed a few chances in the third and it ultimately cost them when a last-second shot deflected off a stick and beat Boston Bilous, who otherwise looked very confident in his second consecutive start.

“He’s in a tough spot as a 16-year-old kid there. He’s going to be a big part of our future, he’s going to have youthful moments but he battled hard,” said Steve Hamilton, “He made some timely saves for us”.

The powerplay continued to struggle as well. Despite scoring a goal, they finished 1/5 on the night and didn’t generate very many quality chances. It’d be one thing if they were just battling some puck luck, but this team can’t get anything going with the man advantage.

“The tendency is to slow it down and overlook options when in reality you have to get the penalty killers moving. That’s quick puck movement, quick decisions, quick releases. Just like everything else, (it’s) a continued work in progress.” said Steve Hamilton.

He mentioned the need to be quicker, and the Oil Kings just simply aren’t doing that. They struggled on the PK against Saskatoon as well, giving up two goals on five kills. It’s hard to win games when you continually lose the special teams battle.

You can tell these tough losses are starting to take a toll on this group and frustration is setting in. Hopefully, the upcoming five-game road trip will serve this team well. Take away the distractions and let them hopefully find a way to win games.

HITTIN’ THE ROAD

The upcoming five-game road trip starts tomorrow in Victoria and will see the Oil Kings take stops in Vancouver and Kelowna before finishing things off with a doubleheader against the Prince George Cougars.

It’s a tough stretch as Victoria, Kelowna and Vancouver make up the top three teams in the BC division. Not only will they have to continue playing good hockey, but they need to start grabbing some points. Despite the tough competition, I think they might be able to do that.

They’ve already proven they can keep up with the Victoria Royals, bringing them to OT last month. Vancouver isn’t exactly playing their best right now, dropping four of their last five. They’ll also finish the trip with back-to-back games against Prince George who are just 5-8-2 on the season.

With the status of Travis Child still unknown, I’m excited to see if Boston Bilous can keep up his strong play. He’s faced 56 shots over his last three starts and turned aside 50 of them. By no means are those numbers jaw-dropping, but he’s looked confident and hopefully he can keep up that quality of play.

Goaltending, depth scoring, and special teams. If the Oil Kings can see improvements in those three areas, I think they could grab anywhere from 4-6 points over the five-game trip.