Lazar lifts Oil Kings into final
Triple-overtime match longest game in championship’s history
Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings celebrates his game-winning goal at 2:42 of the third overtime period against the Val-d’Or Foreurs in Friday’s Mastercard Memorial Cup semifinal at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont.
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
LONDON, Ont. — When Curtis Lazar tipped in a Cody Corbett slapshot from the point to end the longest game in Memorial Cup history, his first thought was that now he’d be able to go to bed. He and his teammates earned their sleep with the way they battled the Val d’Or Foreurs in a truly epic semifinal.
The goal, at 2:42 of the third overtime, lifted the Oil Kings past the Foreurs 4-3 and into Sunday’s final against the Guelph Storm.
The Oil Kings’ franchise hasn’t played in the Memorial Cup final since 1971, when Guy Lafleur and the Quebec Remparts beat Edmonton 2-0 in a best-of-three final series.
“(Reid) Petryk made a great play there, it’s probably going to go unnoticed,” said Lazar, who let out a massive sigh as he sat down at the podium to chat with reporters.
“He picked up the puck in traffic and to hit Corbett and he threw it on net, that’s never a bad play in overtime. We sort of had that eye contact and he found my stick on the ice and I was just able to redirect it in.”
Asked to describe his emotions at that instant, Lazar said: “My first thought was to go to bed. It’s so late right now. It’s a big relief, especially because on that goal in the third period, that was my guy going out there and I wasn’t able to block it. I felt a little guilty for that.
“To get that win there is huge for our team.”
Lazar’s guy was Val d’Or defenceman Guillaume Gelinas, who returned from a nasty knee bruise following a knee-on-knee hit in the round-robin game against Guelph. Gelinas forced overtime when his wrist shot from the point off a faceoff in the Edmonton zone beat Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry to the blocker side.
That tied the score 3-3 with just 36 seconds left in the third period, and came with the Val d’Or net empty, starting goalie Antoine Bibeau pulled for a sixth attacker.
Anthony Mantha, the Val d’Or scoring star, misfired on a cluster of shots at net, especially in the third period, but he made a splendid play on Gelinas’s crucial goal. Mantha scored just one goal all tournament, the game-winner in Val d’Or’s 1-0 opening-game win against the host London Knights.
“We never quit,” a red-eyed Mantha said. “It was a hard game and the guys just pushed and pushed.”
Both teams pushed it way beyond the norm in this one, which lasted 102 minutes, 42 seconds. Coupled with the double-overtime thriller that Val d’Or won on Tuesday night, which lasted a mere 81:15, the two teams put on a 183:57-minute show for the fans in London.
Those aren’t two tournament games, that’s a best four-out-of-seven series, for Pete’s sake.
How disheartening was it to have Val d’Or send another game to overtime?
“It was tough,” Lazar said. “But all year long, we’ve found a way to win. The character in our dressing room is huge. (Winger) Mitch Moroz, he said a prayer during the intermission, we said Pelssy is with us, and sure enough he came through.
“There is no better feeling right now.”
Pelssy is Kristians Pelss, the former Oil Kings winger who died in a tragic accident during the off-season in his native Lativa. The Oil Kings, who have dedicated their season to his memory, have Pelss’s jersey in a place of honour in their dressing room and unabashedly laud their late teammate.
Edmonton will have about 40 hours to rest and regroup to play the well-rested Ontario Hockey League champion Guelph Storm, the pre-tournament favourites, at 2 p.m. MDT Sunday for the Canadian major junior hockey championship.
Some players were feeling the effects of extreme exertion before the semifinal was over.
Edgars Kulda, whose third goal of the tournament at 9:45 of the second period held up as the game-winner until late in the third, waxed facetious in suggesting maybe it would be nice, all due respect, for the Oil Kings to finish a game without so much drama.
“In triple overtime, my legs just stopped playing, they were cramping up all over the place,” said Kulda, also a Latvian player. “I needed to get to the bench as fast I (could) and get hydrated.”
How did he feel when Lazar’s deft tip slipped past Bibeau and into the net?
“It was the best feeling ever,” Kulda said with an ear-to-ear, Lazar-like grin.
“I can say I was the happiest man on the earth for that moment.
When a reporter noted it was the longest game in Memorial Cup history, Kulda said: “Yeah, it’s a pretty special to get (something) like that.
“Of course, we could have finished the game in the THIRD period. But we are the Edmonton Oil Kings. We need to play a little bit more hockey you know? So, yeah, we decided to finish in the triple-overtime.”
Mads Eller and Moroz, both with their first goals of the tournament, also scored for the Oil Kings. Phil Pietroniro, and Randy Gazzola scored the other goals for the Foreurs, whose goaltender — Bibeau — face 50 or more shots in three of his four games. In the other one, he faced 36 in two periods before he was lifted.
It was a magnificent show by both teams and, when it was over, those who remained in the Budweiser Gardens crowd of 8,776 gave both teams a well-deserved standing ovation.
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart, like everyone else, was a tad gobsmacked, but realistic, all the same.
“It was amazing,” Reinhart said. “You could tell that both teams were pretty tired; it was starting to get a little bit sloppy both ways.
“We knew we had to keep our energy up as much as we could. We’ve always bounced back at the right times and we showed that again tonight; great character in the room.
“Hopefully, we’ve got one more to go.”
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