Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Oil Kings let one slip away in Kootenay

Having won their last four outings and nine of the previous ten games, it looked as like the Edmonton Oil Kings would have an easy go of it on Tuesday night, as they paid a visit to the Kootenay Ice. Unfortunately for Derek Laxdal's crew, no one let the Central Division cellar dwellers in on the plan, as the Ice edged the Oil Kings 2-1, in Western Hockey League action.

An early third period power play marker from defenceman Joey Leach, proved to be more than enough for the red-hot Ice, as netminder Mackenzie Skapski held Edmonton at bay  the rest of the way, making thirty-one stops on the night. Oil Kings starter Laurent Brossoit was his usual outstanding self, matching Skapski's thirty-one stops, as he continues to build on his recent resurgence.

T.J. Foster got his side off to the start they were looking for, roofing his nineteenth of the season, just under seven minutes in. However, unlike the vast majority of their most recent outings, the Oil Kings were unable to deliver that early knockout punch and put their opposition away.

To Kootenay's credit, they came out hard for the middle stanza but were held off the scoring sheet, thanks to a goaltending clinic from Edmonton's starting tender. Despite badly outshooting the Oil Kings, they were unable to sneak one behind Brossoit...that is until the closing minutes of period two.

Jadon Descheneau would finally get the Ice on the board, snapping a quick wrist shot past Brossoit, with less than two minutes to go. It was a huge goal for Kootenay to grab heading into the second intermission and one that looked even larger, after an ill advised interference penalty to Edmonton's Mitch Moroz in the dying seconds of the middle frame.

Things would go from bad to worse for the defending WHL champs, as defenceman Dysin Mayo took a delay of game penalty, all of thirty-five seconds into the third period. More often than not, the Oil Kings top rated penalty killing has bailed them out of these exact sort of situations throughout the first forty games of the season but on this night, they would break on the two man advantage.

Kootenay would grab their first lead at the 1:12 mark, as Leach's point shot found its way behind into the Oil Kings net and putting his side in the drivers seat heading home. Edmonton would press for the equalizer throughout the final frame, leaving their netminder to fend for himself and in spite of his best efforts, they were unable to get one of their fifteen period shots behind Skapski.

The win not only pushed Kootenay's winning streak to six straight but also bumped the Oil Kings from top spot in the Central Division. The Calgary Hitmen continued their somewhat surprising season, pounding the Brandon Wheat Kings 7-2 on Tuesday night, moving them back into top spot and past their provincial rivals.

Edmonton continued playing somewhat shorthanded, as they were still missing defencemen Griffin Reinhart and David Musil, along with forward Edgars Kulda. While both Musil and Kulda are on the verge of getting back into the Oil Kings lineup, the same can not be said about their captain.

With National Hockey League camps set to get underway this weekend, it may be sometime before fans see Reinhart back in an Oil Kings jersey...if they do at all. With the big blueliner preparing to attend the New York Islanders mini-camp, prior to the start of the NHL season, there is a very good chance he will break camp as one of the Islanders defenceman.

Definitely a tough break for the Oil Kings but it is one they have absolutely no control over. That being said, Edmonton did receive some good news on Tuesday, as defenceman Martin Gernat was cleared for connect. Meaning the talented rearguard will not have to wait much longer, before finally making his season debut.

Gernat, who has missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, led all Edmonton blueliners in scoring during 2011-2012 with fifty-five points and would be a huge addition to the Oil Kings roster...especially with Reinhart's return being very much in doubt.

Edmonton will now head home and host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday night at Rexall Place, before heading out on a three game road trip. 

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