Since the last time the Edmonton Oil Kings lost a hockey game, back on February 22nd, they have played games in five different cities, and won them all, 17 straight games. Weather it has been at home, in Kootenay, Red Deer, Medicine Hat or Calgary the effort, and result has been the same, and it has paid off with a first place overall finish in the Western Hockey League, followed by a first round sweep over the defending champion Kootenay Ice in round one. The Oil Kings, who last lost to the Kelowna Rockets on February 22nd, are also half way to another series win in round 2, leading the Brandon Wheat Kings 2 games to none after 2-1 and 4-3 wins over the Easter Weekend.
Eleven straight wins to end the regular season, six straight to start the playoffs, the Oil Kings are living the dream right now, but defenseman Griffin Reinhart says they are keeping their heads on straight during this long win streak “We realize it’s not coming easy to us, we have to keep putting the work in.” Says Reinhart, who is ranked 10th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings for the June draft, “We know that’s why we are having success right now because we are putting in the work and buying into the system.”
The first two games against Brandon in round 2, played at Rexall Place in Edmonton, were one goal games, both in doubt in the 3rd period, and Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal feels the Wheat Kings will be even tougher to beat in Brandon in games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, “We are going into a smaller building for their first playoff game at home, the crowd is going to be excited to see their hockey club, they are going to be energized off of that.” The Wheat Kings were forced to move their first round series home games to Winnipeg because of a schedule conflict with their rink in Brandon, but that didn’t slow them down in a first round series upset over the Calgary Hitmen. Laxdal knows what it will take to have success. “We have to play a real solid road game, keep it simple, get pucks in deep, get pucks to the net, we’ve got to have three high, don’t get into a track meet and play a good greasy road game.”
How well they play in Brandon will determine who and when they play at home next. A loss in either game 3 or 4 means game 5 back in Edmonton on Friday, if the win streak hits 19 games, the next time we would see the Oil Kings would be in game one of the Eastern Final at Rexall Place against Moose Jaw or Medicine Hat. Reinhart says it doesn’t matter where they play right now, “Our focus is playing a good solid game, in our barn and the other barn, we have to stay focused and worry about our game.”
It’s a game that’s been very good for 17 straight. (ms)