The Edmonton Oil Kings held off a late push from the Kootenay Ice to win 4-2 in front of a crowd of screaming school kids for their annual Hockey Hooky game on Wednesday morning.
The Ice surrendered a pair of goals seven seconds apart in the second period as the Oil Kings built up a three-goal 4-1 lead going into the final period.
However, Kootenay hit a few posts in the third period, and capitalized on a five-on-three powerplay late in the game, but a comeback fell short.
Joey Leach and Sam Reinhart scored for the Ice, while Luke Bertolucci, T.J. Foster, Cody Corbett, and Curtis Lazar replied for Edmonton.
Wyatt Hoflin got the start for the Ice, turning away 39 shots, while Laurent Brossoit stopped 31 shots for the Oil Kings.
Both teams had five powerplay opportunities—the Ice capitalized once and shut out the Oil Kings in all of their chances.
“I don’t know that our goaltending was good enough today and it’s hard for your team to gain any type of momentum when they scored as easily as they did,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill.
“In saying that, you can take a positive out of this today where we killed off all their powerplays that they had and that’s a big accomplishment versus the number one powerplay in the league.”
Bertolucci opened the scoring for the Oil Kings for the lone goal in the first period.
Foster and Corbett scored seven seconds apart in the middle frame, while Lazar goal came roughly a minute after Corbett’s marker.
Leach finally answered for the Ice when he shot the puck from the point that deflected off something on it’s way to the net, with six minutes to go in the period.
Reinhart cut the deficit in half with three minutes remaining in the game on a five-on-three powerplay, extending his point streak to 14 games.
Philp earned an assist on the goal, which gives him points in four games, while Leach’s goal gives him a run of points in three games.
The 11:30 a.m. start shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a lack of preparation, said McGill.
“Obviously, you have to get up and get your wits about yourself, but your preparation starts the day before,” McGill said. “We talked about that on the morning before we left on the trip. It’s the same for both teams, it’s one game a year and it’s the same playing field for each team.”
The team hit the bus after the game and headed south to Red Deer to challenge the Rebels on Thursday night.
Skapski will get the nod to man the crease against the Rebels, as McGill wanted to rest the 18-year-old starter and give Hoflin a chance to get in some gametime experience against the Oil Kings.
“The biggest reason why Wyatt started today was because Mackenzie has started a lot of games,” said McGill. “Two things: it was a great opportunity for Wyatt to step up and be accountable for his team and help his team win, and it gives Mackenzie that extra day of rest.”
There are other parts of their game that need to sharpen up as well, added McGill.
“We want our defence to be better in getting back for pucks, moving pucks up the ice quickly in a quicker transition game,” said McGill. “We have to be way better on our back end in our own zone attack and getting shots through. We had too many shots blocked today because we were too lethargic with the puck.”
Edmonton’s victory tighten’s their grip on first place in the Eastern Conference, while Kootenay takes on the fourth place team in Red Deer on Thursday.
The Ice lead the season series 3-2 against the Rebels, as each team has a pair of wins on home ice, but Kootenay has the edge with one road victory in October.