Oil Kings jump in standings with win
In a game that held a big move up the standings, the Moose Jaw Warriors came up short.
© Katie Brickman
Ashton Sautner of the Edmonton Oil Kings crushes Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brayden Point into the boards while fighting for the puck during Western Hockey League action at Mosaic Place on Wednesday evening. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman
With a victory, the Warriors (5-7-1-2) could have moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Unfortunately, a loss dropped them to 10th place and their foe on Wednesday evening, the Edmonton Oil Kings (7-6-0-1) jumped into that position instead.
The Oil Kings buried their chances in a 3-1 victory over the Warriors in Western Hockey League action at Mosaic Place.
“It is a big two points. It is a road win to start this long road trip,” said Derek Laxdal, head coach for Edmonton. “For us, Moose Jaw is always a tough place to play and they come hard in this building.”
This was the first of eight games on the road for the Oil Kings. It didn’t start off great for them when Warriors forward Brayden Point scored just 36 seconds into the game on the first shot.
“When they scored that first goal on that first shift, it caught us on our heels a little bit, but after that, I thought we settled in and I thought we controlled most of the five-on-five play,” explained Laxdal.
It was the fourth time this season that the Warriors were only able to generate just one goal in a game. The team made it tough on starting goaltender, Justin Paulic, who faced 40 shots for the sixth time this season. However, the experienced netminder didn’t mind seeing that much rubber.
“It is tough that we didn’t score a lot of goals again, but my job is to give the guys a chance to win everyday,” Paulic said. “Coming up in my minor hockey days, I always faced a lot of pucks, so it is something I am used to. I don’t really mind, especially when the team was limiting the other team’s opportunities. It is a lot of shots, but not a lot of scoring opportunities.”
On the game-winning goal from Edgars Kulda early in the third period, the Warriors were slow to the puck and slow on coverage that Riley Keiser was able to beat Bryson Gore behind the net and pass the puck to Kulda for an easy goal at the side of the net. Keiser added an empty net goal with 14.3 seconds left to seal the win.
“It was a soft chip on a dump play, but good speed by Kieser to be there first and he made a great pop to the net for Kulda just to pick up the puck,” said Laxdal. “I’m not sure what happened on their coverage, but we will take it. It was a big goal for us.”
That is one goal that Paulic wants back — “it would have been nice to stop that second goal and maybe bring it to overtime.”
Finding the back of the net is something the Warriors have struggled with this season, as they have now be in seven games separated by just one goal — four of those were losses, but got points out of three.
“It hasn’t gotten easier for us to score,” said Mike Stothers, head coach of the Warriors. “Sometimes you try to force things harder than it needs to be instead of just making the easy play, but they are trying.”
The Warriors will welcome a chance to escape Mosaic Place, where they have lost seven and only won three games at home this season. They will battle with the 2-11-0-1 Lethbridge Hurricanes this evening. The Hurricanes currently sit last in the league with just five points.
“This is a game we definitely have to win. They are going to come out hard because they want that game too,” said Paulic. “It is just as important to work as hard as we can.”
Stothers hopes the team will perform the way they did in Prince Albert that earned them a win.
“Sometimes that (getting away) is the best thing,” he stated.
The Warriors will play Kootenay on Saturday and Regina next Wednesday.
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