Off To A Perfect Start
Fresh off a 4-2 win to kick off their 2019-20 season in, the Edmonton Oil Kings hosted the Red Deer Rebels at their season opener on the back half of a home-and-home where they won handily 4-1.
Edmonton showed their home fans for the first time this year why they should be excited about the season as they were relentlessly dominating the puck the entire first period. The Rebels couldn’t catch their breath as the Oil Kings smothered them and the flow of the game.
The Oil Kings were finally able to break through the Rebels late in the first period on what might be the easiest goal they’ll score all season. Riley Sawchuk was able to poke the puck into the net when goaltender Ethan Anders misplayed the puck on a dump in which resulted in the puck laying in the blue paint for him.
It was much of the same for the Oil Kings to kick off the second period when the fourth line doubled the lead only six minutes into the game. Jesse Seppälä was able to pot his first-ever WHL goal on a quick shot from the top of the slot that took another Oil Kings bounce.
Although the Rebels weren’t going down without a fight as they upped their intensity creating a few scoring chances but were denied by Edmonton goalie Todd Scott each time. But with six minutes left in the second period, they were finally able to solve Edmonton after a shot off the post laid perfectly for Chris Douglas to fire it past an unsuspecting Scott.
The Oil Kings responded a minute later when Rebels goalie Ethan Anders gave up a big rebound from an Ethan Cap point-shot which sprung onto the stick of a ready Liam Keeler and he made no mistake for his first goal of the year.
The third period saw some more physical play between the two Alberta teams. Jalen Luypen and Ethan Rowland started the third period off with a bang after a healthy scrap in the middle of the ice which energized the crowd and both benches. Neighbours, later on, showed off his two-way game backchecking hard to meet Brett Davis in the slot where he levelled him with a crushing hit that sent Davis flying.
The Oil Kings were able to put the nail in the coffin when Sawchuk scored his second goal of the game on an empty netter to make it 4-1 in the last minute.
The game saw an unprecedented 15 powerplay opportunities and incredibly enough zero goals during all of that time on the man advantage. The 4-1 win improves Edmonton’s record against Red Deer to 8-1-0-1 in their last ten meetings.
Dylan Guenther and Jake Neighbours really stood out tonight for different reasons. Neighbours was really showcasing what makes him a complete player for this upcoming NHL Entry Draft. There was a penalty-killing shift in particular that really stood out for Jake. After an errant would-be breakaway pass slipped through his fingers, Neighbours protected the puck in the corner from three Red Deer players successfully for at least ten seconds before a fourth player tripped him and took the puck on what should’ve been a penalty.
Guenther, on the other hand, had four scoring chances but was unable to finish on any of them. Although, he was constantly showing off his smooth hands and slippery skating to create those chances. Even though he couldn’t find the back of the net it was quite encouraging to see that he’s going to be a major scoring threat for the Oil Kings all season long.
Edmonton was really able to dominate this game from start to finish and it was encouraging to see all four lines creating offence and chipping in. Head Coach Brad Lauer postgame had this to say about his returning players: “It’s an opportunity now for those guys that were supporting cast last year to take that next step this year, and be the go-to-guys for us this year,” says Lauer.
He would go onto say that he preached in training camp it would be a collective effort to pick up the scoring left behind from their top two scorers who are no longer with the team. But that’s why he said the team picked up Riley Sawchuk and says that it needs to be a collective group effort for the team to pick up the offence together.
Recently named team captain Scott Atkinson said postgame that he didn’t expect to be named the captain but says he’s up for the challenge and happy for the opportunity.
Edmonton remains perfect on the year after the clean sweep of the Rebels taking this one 4-1. They’ll take a short trip on Friday to face the Calgary Hitman and finish the weekend at home against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday.
(photo credit: Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings.)