Coach unhappy with Oil Kings effort in win over Ice
Laxdal derides his WHL team’s ‘sloppy’ performance against backup Kootenay goalie
On paper, all of the ingredients for success were there for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Lopsided win? Check. Sixth in a row? Check. Satisfied coach? Not so much.
“I wasn’t happy with our effort today,” Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said after his team topped the Kootenay Ice 4-2 at Rexall Place. It was the Oil Kings’ fourth annual Hockey Hooky game and the stands were filled with 9,975 fans, most of them school-aged children who’d been invited to the game by the Western Hockey League team for the 11:30 a.m. start.
The win didn’t sit well with Laxdal, who watched the Oil Kings open up a 4-0 lead early in the second period with three goals in 1:21.
“I thought we were sloppy, a little bit complacent, a little bit nonchalant. I thought we thought it was going to be an easy game,” Laxdal said.
The Oil Kings improved to 36-11-2-3, while Kootenay fell to 23-26-2-0, but lost in regulation for just the second time this month. The Ice’s starting goalie, Mackenzie Skapski, sat Wednesday’s game out in favour of backup Wyatt Hoflin. The Spruce Grove native had 39 saves for Kootenay. Laurent Brossoit made 31 saves for Edmonton.
“When kids see a lineup and they see another goaltender’s starting a game they think it’s going to be easy,” Laxdal said. “We tried to funnel some pucks and we got a little bit sloppy and I just didn’t like our energy level.
“I don’t know if it’s the morning game. I thought they had pretty good energy. You can’t blame it on the time of the day.”
The Oil Kings opened scoring at 7:44 of the first period, when forward Luke Bertolucci flicked a shot from the left wing past Hoflin. Having out-shot Kootenay 19-7 in the first period, the Oil Kings pounced to start the second, with their barrage of goals.
T.J. Foster took a smart feed across the crease from Michael St. Croix and tapped his 21st of the season home for a 2-0 lead at 2:06. Just seven seconds later, Edmonton defenceman Cody Corbett took the puck from the faceoff at centre ice and went back to that left wing and beat Hoflin again. Curtis Lazar banged in a rebound in front at 3:31 to blow the game open in just an 85-second span.
Laxdal said they were fortunate to get those three goals.
“If they probably would have started Skapski, we may not even have won this game,” the coach said. “I thought L.B. was outstanding. He made some huge saves.”
Kootenay head coach Ryan McGill stayed with Hoflin in net, and the 17-year-old (he turns 18 on Thursday) regained his focus and shut the door on the Oil Kings the rest of the day. The Ice fought its way back into the game as well. Captain Joey Leach spoiled Brossoit’s shutout bid at 14:18 of the second from that same left-wing spot with the same type of goals that beat Hoflin.
Travis Ewanyk’s day came to an early close thanks to his part in a late third-period scrap with Kootenay’s Jon Martin. Ewanyk picked up an instigator penalty, the major for fighting and a game misconduct. When Stephane Legault’s slashing penalty put Edmonton two-men down late in the game, Sam Reinhart scored his 26th of the season with 2:56 to play.
Laxdal looked at his team, one that’s expected to compete for a return trip to the Memorial Cup this year, and wasn’t happy.
“We’ve got another gear in us and we’ve been sloppy all week in practice,” said Lazar, who wasn’t surprised with his coach’s reaction to the game.
“We sort of saw it on the ice, the little mistakes we were making. We’ve got to be better and we know Lax and if we want to make a long playoff run again, it’s up to us to hold ourselves accountable.”
“I feel like we were a little out of joint all day,” Foster said. “Our penalty kill, we made some adjustments and we didn’t do them and our power play was off all game. Without that five-minute spurt there in the second it’s a tight game.”
“They know,” Laxdal said. “They’re not stupid. They know they can play better and they know they got away with one.”
The Oil Kings host the Swift Current Broncos on Friday at 7 p.m. at Rexall Place before heading out on a five-game road trip.
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