The rollercoaster of a season continued for the Edmonton Oil Kings as they continued one of the busiest parts of their schedule.
“There’s no doubt the schedule is taxing,” said Head Coach Steve Hamilton, noting that the increased amount of games has taken away from the team’s ability to practice regularly.
When Edmonton started this stretch of four games in five days, they were playing some of their best hockey of the season and had grabbed nine of the last twelve possible points. Things managed to come unravelled rather quickly, and it all started with a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Hitmen.
A 4-1 loss was far from an ideal way to kick off a run of three games in three nights, especially considering that Calgary was supposed to be the easiest opponent. They followed up a poor performance down south with a loss on home ice to the Prince Albert Raiders, a game in which they honestly deserved a better fate.
By the third night of this stand, they were completely out of gas and going up against the Swift Current Broncos, who hold the second-best record in the WHL, it was a recipe for disaster.
The Broncos struck early and often en route to an 8-0 victory, proving why they’re a legitimate Memorial Cup Contender.
“It’s a tough opposition to begin with. I don’t think we did ourselves very many favours” said defenseman Wyatt McLeod “They’re great lessons for us. There are no easy nights in this league, doesn’t matter if you’re playing the best team or the worst team”.
The team is in last place, and with less than a month left in the season, it really feels like there isn’t anything to play for. But if this group wants to compete next year, they need to really take advantage of every experience they’re getting.
“We have a lot of young guys that are playing a lot of minutes and getting put in situations where maybe they’re in over their heads a bit, but that’s not a bad thing. Guys are improving and learning what to do in these situations,” added the 18-year-old McLeod.
The learning curve has been steep at times, but I think most around the organization agree that the next wave of young talent has done an excellent job handling the workload, even when the results haven’t been encouraging.
The number of injuries they’ve had to endure has only made things more difficult, and they aren’t getting any healthier. Goalies Todd Scott and Travis Child are both out right now, but it looks like Scott may return for a few final starts before the end of the year. Deadline acquisition Brendan Semchuk has just returned before he went down against Medicine Hat, and it didn’t look good. Veteran d-men Will Warm and Jantzen Leslie are both week-to-week and their absence has been notable. Add forwards Liam Keeler and Ty Gerla to the list, although they may get a game or two in before the end of the year as well.
They’re essentially missing an entire line of regulars, which has really been testing Steve Hamilton and the group of players who have stayed healthy.
The Oil Kings will be limping to the finish line as they play their final nine games. There is a chance for them to grab some wins though, with five of their opponents sitting out of a playoff spot.
Next up for Edmonton will be a rematch against the Calgary Hitmen on Friday.