Sunday, December 09, 2012

Captain Reinhart leads Oil Kings to huge win over Hitmen

After failing to put away their provincial rivals in any of their four previous kicks at the can, the Edmonton Oil Kings finally got the job done on Saturday night. Captain Griffin Reinhart led the charge with a goal and two assists and netminder Laurent Brossoit stopped twenty-nine of the thirty-one shots fired his way, earning the defending WHL champs a crucial split in their weekend set with the Calgary Hitmen, with the 4-2 victory.

An early tilt between Mitch Moroz and Alex Roach set the tone for what was an entertaining opening frame, as the two men renewed acquaintances after the Oil Kings forwarded caught the defender with an open ice knee-on-knee hit, a night earlier, at Rexall Place. Moroz held his own against the towering Calgary blueliner, which seemed  to energize hi teammates.

Edmonton would draw the game's first penalty at the 7:06 mark and nineteen seconds later, the Western Hockey League's top power play unit struck for the early lead. Reinhart's seeing-eye point shot, found its way through a wonderful screen from Curtiz Lazar, giving the Team Canada hopeful his fourth of the season.

The two sides traded chances the rest of the way but both Driedger and Brossoit turned aside chance after chance. Unfortunately for the Hitmen, a perfectly timed deflection by Stephane Legault, in the dying minutes of the first, would stretch the Oil Kings lead to 2-0.

Unlike a night earlier, when Calgary took over the proceedings in the middle stanza, Edmonton would grind things to halt, playing a solid road period. While they did not increase their lead, they limited the Hitmen to just three shots and held onto their two goal advantage heading into the second intermission.

Henrik Samuelsson would make it a three goal deficit, ripping home a lovely feed from Michael St. Croix, for his fourteenth of the season and the Oil Kings second power play marker of the night. The goal ended Samuelsson's three game pointless streak, after registering a point in his previous eight.

As has been the case in nearly every game the two sides have played this season, Calgary would not go quietly. Just as he did in Edmonton on Friday night, Cody Sylvester would put the Hitmen on the board, depositing a rebound behind Brossoit, for his eighteenth of the campaign. Less than thirty seconds later, the lead would be down to one.

A long ranged blast by defenceman Alex Roach managed to beat the Oil Kings tender but rattled off the post. Unfortuantely for Brossoit, the puck ricocheted off the iron, bounced off his back and found its way across the goal line. A tough break indeed but one that seemed almost par for the course. With just over three minutes to go, Calgary had life and the Saddledome was rocking.

However, on this night, there would be no Hitmen comeback. With Driedger on the bench for an extra attacker, Dylan Wruck slid home his eleventh on the year to make it a 4-2 final and give the Oil Kings their first win on the year against their southern rivals.

With the victory, Edmonton moved back into a tie for top spot in the Western Hockey League's Central Division. The Oil Kings head home for a few days off, before opening a brief three game home stand on Wednesday night, as they square off against the Kamloops Blazers.

Calgary will play host to those same Blazers on Tuesday night, they will need to be at their very best come Wednesday, as they travel to Red Deer and take on the league's hottest team. The Rebels had their nine game winning streak snapped on Saturday night, courtesy of an overtime goal from Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Ryley Miller.

Despite the loss, Red Deer remain in the race for the Central Division crown, as they currently sit only two points back of both the Oil Kings and Hitmen.

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