Photo Credit: Twitter.com/EDMOilKings

Oil Kings Update: Pair of impressive wins keeps team atop Central Division

Another week has gone by for the Edmonton Oil Kings and for another week, they’ve held the top spot in the WHL’s Central Division. They did it by going 2-1-0 and beating a pair of damn good teams in the process.

On Friday night, they rolled into Prince Albert to take on the number one ranked Raiders and the young Oil Kings team did not look one bit intimidated by their elite opposition.

They went down in the first period but responded with a pair of quick goals in the middle frame, one courtesy of the red hot Conner McDonald, then things got a little wild. In the span of 1:21, the Raiders struck twice to grab the lead and it looked like they had a stranglehold on the game until Trey Fix-Wolansky took over, scoring twice in under two minutes before the end of the period. A frantic stretch saw four goals scored in the final four minutes of the period and when the buzzer sounded, the Oil Kings had a one-goal lead.

In the third, they added two more and escaped Prince Albert with a regulation win. That’s something only three other teams have done this season.

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The next night they rolled into Saskatoon and took down a very good Blades team in overtime. Connor McDonald picked up his third multi-goal game within a matter of days and Trey Fix-Wolansky scored the OT winner. Lately, I’ve been talking about how good their depth scoring has been, but tonight was one of those nights where their best players were their best players.

They hit a bump in the road on Monday night when they once again faced the Prince Albert Raiders, this time at Rogers Place. It was all Raiders in this one. From the drop off the puck, the top-ranked team in the country showed why they’ve held that honour almost all season.

While the Oil Kings got blown out in their most recent game, it’s hard to look at the past week as anything but successful. Here are some of my takeaways from the past seven days:

  • They got wins even though they weren’t at their best. They got outshot 129-93 during their 2-1-0 stretch, but still managed to grab wins against two elite teams.
  • A big reason for that is goaltending. Todd Scott has been sensational, despite giving up five to PA on Monday. Scott continued to build off a highly successful January that earned him the WHL’s Goaltender of the Month award with a 4-0-0 record to go with a 1.47 GAA and a 0.945 SV%.
  • They’re also winning games despite missing a pair of key players. Matt Robertson is once again injured (currently listed as day-to-day), David Kope will likely miss another week with an upper-body injury, and Jake Neighbours returned from an injury that kept him out for a mouth only to get a four-game suspension in his first game back (he will return on Feb.14th when Edmonton heads to Moose Jaw).
  • Connor McDonald is quickly becoming one of the premier offensive defensemen in the WHL. He has three multi-goal efforts in his last six games despite previously going 200 career WHL games without one. He now 37 points on the season, which ranks 10th amongst WHL defensemen. He’s also second in goals with 16 and first in powerplay goals among d-men.

As I said off the top, the Oil Kings sit first atop the Central Division with 56 points and their division is incredibly tight. The Lethbridge Hurricanes are just three points behind them and have two games in hand. The Medicine Hat Tigers are six points back with three games in hand. The Red Deer Rebels are 7 seven points back with four games in hand.

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They could blink and fall from first in the division to a wild card spot if the games in hand don’t go their way. They can’t be feeling very safe atop the division.

They’ll hit the ice three times in the next week with games against the Regina Pats, Brandon Wheat Kings, and Moose Jaw Warriors. All three of those teams have fewer wins than them this season.

Even though the Warriors are scorching hot right now, and the Oil Kings are 0-2-1 against them this season,  there’s no reason why the Oil Kings can’t win those other two games (they’re 3-0-0 against Regina and Brandon combined) and come out of this three-game stretch with four or five points.