Oil Kings hammer Ice, regain series lead

Kootenay falls 7-1 to Edmonton in Game Three at Western Financial Place on Tuesday night.

A Kootenay Ice player sprawls in front of Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit

A Kootenay Ice player sprawls in front of Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit

A few mistakes here and a few mistakes there translated into a 7-1 loss for the Kootenay Ice at the hands of the Edmonton Oil Kings on Tuesday night at Western Financial Place.

Edmonton built on a 3-1 lead before the first 10 minutes of the game expired, and did more damage as the game went on to score a decisive victory that put them back in the series lead.

“We were down, but we’re not out,” said Ice defenceman Joey Leach, on how the team was feeling after the opening period. “We obviously weren’t in a spot we wanted to be, but we were in a spot where we should’ve been able to come back from.”

Despite the score, it seemed as if Edmonton’s ability to finish on their chances was the main reason for their scoring prowess. Kootenay definitely had chances to bury the puck, but Oil Kings netminder Laurent Brossoit had a strong game and bailed out his team when the Ice went on the attack.

Brossoit made a total of 24 saves, while Ice starter Mackenzie Skapski was replaced by Wyatt Hoflin in the third period after Edmonton’s fifth goal. The two Kootenay goaltenders collectively stopped 32 shots.

The powerplay was an issue again for the Kootenay squad, failing to convert on three opportunities, as Edmonton have continued their streak of killing off every single penalty throughout the series.

“We got a few more shots, we tweaked it a bit from what happened [before], but we just got to bear down,” said Leach. “They give us the opportunities, we’ve got to be able to put them in the back of the net.”

The Oil Kings were looking for a response after getting rattled by a 2-1 OT loss in Rexall Place and they got it less than two minutes into the game.

Michael St. Croix managed to get a stick on the puck while being tied up in a one-on-one battle when entering the zone, and roofed a shot over Skapksi’s blocker.

Almost 90 seconds later, the Ice answered right back, as Luke Philp capitalized on a rebound in front of Brossoit to draw the two teams even.

But the tie didn’t last.

Curtis Lazar, who has been scoreless in Edmonton’s postseason, scored his first goal under a minute after Philp’s marker to put the Oil Kings back in the lead.

St. Croix padded the lead with a lucky deflection when his centering pass deflected off an Ice defenceman and into the net to give Edmonton a 3-1 lead after the first frame.

Kootenay had some better pressure in the second period, especially in the latter half, when Travis Ewanyk served a penalty for the Oil Kings.

“They definitely had some time in our end and had some opportunities, but obviously Brossoit was big there for a couple big stops and, luckily, we were able to get a couple goals as well,” said St. Croix.

Edmonton added to the lead with a late goal from Luke Bertolucci, who went wide on the Ice defence and cut around the back of the net for a wraparound goal.

Kootenay continued to melt in the third period, on goals from Griffin Reinhart, Trevor Cheek and Cole Benson, but things heated up with a brief scrap between Zach McPhee and Mitch Moroz.

“Obviously, we have some weapons up front, but it’s a team effort, and we got to focus on that team-first mentality and hopefully win tomorrow,” said St. Croix. “They came back, after a 9-0 win, they beat us, so we can’t take them for granted and they’re definitely going to come hard tomorrow.”

WHL NOTES: The Oil Kings team bus smoked an elk on Sunday night on their way down to Cranbrook, but that didn’t seem to affect their performance. Roadblock to the Memorial Cup—the Saskatoon Blades, hosts of the CHL tournament this year, are one loss away from an early exit from the WHL playoffs at the hands of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who have won three straight. The Hurricanes fired Rich Preston, head coach and general manager for the last four seasons, after missing the playoffs for as many times during his tenure. The Seattle Thunderbirds are doing their best David and Goliath impression, and are one win away from upsetting the Kelowna Rockets, as all three games went to the overtime frame.