The Edmonton Oil Kings played three games over the weekend. They started with a home and home series with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and finished the weekend with a trip to visit the Kootenay ICE. The weekend marked the first time since the opening weekend home and home with the Red Deer Rebels that the Oil Kings were in action.
The Oil Kings started their weekend by welcoming the Lethbridge Hurricanes to Rogers Place. The game got off to a poor start for the Oil Kings as they gave up an early power play goal. Both teams would struggle to play a disciplined game and end up in the penalty box numerous times throughout the penalty filled affair. The penalty eventually pulled out their first victory of the season.
The final score on Friday night was seven to six in favor of the Oil Kings. The high scoring games was one where the Oil Kings and Hurricanes held the lead at various points, but both goaltender struggled throughout the game.
Stuart Skinner allowed seven goals on 35 shots which is an unusually erratic performance for him. At the other end of the ice, Travis Child allowed six goals on 31 shots. Neither goaltender looked particularly strong throughout the game. Both Child and Skinner let in goals that they might in other games have stopped. Three players, one Hurricane and two Oil Kings, had two goal nights, but no one managed a hat trick on Friday. At the end of the night, the Oil Kings still managed to get the crucial first win of the season.
Since Friday night’s game had been such a contentious affair, expectations were for another hotly contested affair. In a reversal of the previous night, the Oil Kings were the ones who got the early goal from Colton Kehler, but their lead didn’t last long.
Over all, the Oil Kings were more disciplined on Saturday night taking only eight minutes of penalties instead of Friday night’s 17 minutes. They were unable to solve Stuart Skinner, however, as the Hurricanes net minder had a bounce back game and stopped 19 of 20 shots, earning third star honours.
The Oil Kings finished their weekend with their first road victory against the Kootenay ICE. The Oil Kings recorded the first goal for a second time in three games, but entered the first intermission trailing the ICE two to one. Edmonton bounced back with a big second period where Matthew Robertson, a 16-year-old rookie, netted his first WHL goal. Kobe Mohr also scored in the second period. Added to goals from Trey Fix-Wolansky and Davis Koch, the Oil Kings edged the ICE four to three. The ICE goals game from Cale Fleury, Brett Davis, and Keenan Taphorn.
The weekend as a positive one for the Oil Kings. They recorded two regulation wins for four out of a possible six points and saw their offense start to find its feet. One area of concern has to remain goaltending. Travis Child, acquired in the offseason from the Brandon Wheat Kings, is the Oil Kings’ 20-year-old starting goaltender; he’s looked inconsistent and unreliable.
In the four games he’s played for the Oil Kings season, Child has a 5.00 goals against average and 0.845 save percentage. These are not the type of numbers the Oil Kings were hoping to see from their starting, overage goaltender. While the first four games are damning, the Oil Kings must be hoping that Child is just settling in behind his new team and these games won’t be reflective of Child’s performance throughout the rest of the season.
If Child’s form doesn’t improve quickly, it will be difficult for the Oil Kings to continue to win games. The offense won’t be able to score seven or more goals in every game so the Oil Kings can eek out a seven to six victory. There will be games, like the opening series in Red Deer, where the Oil Kings will need strong goaltending to win. If the Oil Kings are going to have a better than expected season, Child will have to raise his game and provide his team with more genuine opportunities to win.
All goaltending worries aside, the Oil Kings will also be expecting more consistent secondary scoring. In both of the Oil Kings wins over the weekend, their goals were scored by several players. Edmonton will need to develop new offensive threats rather than rely on those players who provided the majority of their offense last season, Davis Koch and Trey Fix-Wolansky. If the Oil Kings want to exceed expectations – like they did over the weekend – they will need to be able to count on more than one or two players to score consistently.
The Oil Kings recorded their first two wins over the weekend. This weekend had much better results for the Oil Kings than WHL opening weekend. The Oil Kings are next in action at Rogers Place on October 6th against the Brandon Wheat Kings and October 8th versus the Everett Silvertips.