December 31, 2008 - Western Hockey League (WHL) - Edmonton Oil Kings
Edmonton, AB - You'll need a full 60 minute effort to upset the #1 team in the entire CHL. The Edmonton Oil Kings managed about 45 minutes of solid hockey but fell short 4 - 1 to Calgary. The Hitmen scored 3 goals in 2:30 late in the third period and added an empty netter for the victory. Over 5600 fans were treated to a pretty good hockey game and a spectacular post-game fireworks display as the two teams battled it out on New Year's Eve.
"We just missed too many chances in the second period and it came back to bite us." said Oil Kings Head Coach Steven Pleau. "We got the lead, we got the one goal and that's where we've got to learn to be mentally tough and stick with the game plan. You can't go away from it. We had success with it for 45 minutes and then all of a sudden we score and play in our end for the last 15 minutes of the game. Give them credit, they're a heck of a team. We've got to learn from this game."
You could tell the Oil Kings were stressing defense on this night and played the 'trap', the 'left wing lock' or whatever you want to call it. They would only send in one attacker on the forecheck when Calgary was breaking out of their zone. After that it was patient hockey which made for a pretty tight first period.
The Hitmen's best chance to open the scoring came with about 3 and a half minutes to go in the opening period. Red Deer native Chase Schaber dug a loose puck out of the corner for Calgary and spotted defenseman Matt Mackenzie jumping up into the play. The big defenseman tried to tap in a re-direction but Torrie Jung stood his ground. The game was waiting for its first goal after 20 minutes and the Hitmen were outshooting the Oil Kings 14 - 6.
Edmonton had a great chance in the early stages of the second period while they were on a powerplay courtesy of a late boarding call to Carson McMillan with 8 seconds to go in the first. Brett Breitkreuz walked the puck out of the corner and lost the handle but Craig McCallum had a pretty good whack at the puck but Martin Jones didn't budge.
The Oil Kings dodged a huge bullet 13 minutes into the second period. Carson McMillan blocked a point shot and sprung himself on a breakaway. Brandon Lockerby gave chase and made a last ditch dive at the puck . It looked like he caught the puck first with the sweep of his stick and knocked McMillan down all in one motion. The referee didn't see it that way and gave McMillan the penalty shot. McMillan tried a move wide on Jung but the Oil Kings netminder was up to the task. Edmonton caught up on the shot clock by the end of the period but it was still 0 - 0.
The Oil Kings finally broke the goose egg 3:22 into the third period on what looked like a harmless play. Brent Raedeke was working 1 on 1 against Oilers draft pick Alex Plante. Raedeke used the big 'd' man as a screen and let a shot go that Jones wasn't expecting. Raedeke's 12th of the season from Craig McCallum made it 1 - 0.
Calgary had an answer on the powerplay about 10 minutes later. Brandon Kozun worked the puck back to the point for Paul Postma. The Atlanta Thrashers pick unleashed a big shot that made its way through a maze of legs for his 10th of the season. It was 1 - 1 with half a period to go.
The Hitmen would grab their first lead of the game just 70 seconds later. Chase Schaber was working hard down low behind the Oil Kings net on an aggressive forecheck and just threw a puck blindly out front that bounced off of defenseman Tyler Hlookoff and into his own net. The lucky break made it 2 - 1.
Another quick goal came just 80 seconds after that when Bostjan Golicic centered a pass for Cody Sylvester who was trailing on an attack. The 16 year old Kelowna native was able to kick the puck from his feet to his stick and in the net before he was leveled from behind. The rookie's 2nd goal of the season made it 3 - 1. Carson McMillan scored into the empty net to make the final 4 - 1 for the visitors.
Edmonton's record slips to 16-20-2-4 while the Hitmen pick up their league leading 34th win and 70th point. The Oil Kings miss an opportunity to narrow the gap for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and remain 4 points behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes.