The Edmonton Oil Kings wrapped up a six game road trip over the weekend. The road trip included a visit to each of the US Division teams in the WHL. The Oil Kings make the trip to the US Division every second year. With a quick stop in Cranbrook to face the Kootenay Ice to start the trip, the six game trip marks one of the longest series of away games on the Oil Kings calendar.
The Oil Kings went 0-5-1 on their trip, just about the worst possible results. The Oil Kings lost 5-4 in a shootout to Kootenay, 3-2 to Spokane, 6-4 to Tri-City, 8-2 to Portland, 5-3 to Everett, and 7-3 to Seattle. Of those score lines, the games against Portland and Seattle stand out as particularly difficult loses. The Oil Kings struggles on the road have effectively killed the momentum that their strong start at home created.
Firmly located in the in the middle of the Central Division, the Oil Kings currently hold the third playoff spot. However, they have played three to four more games than the teams at the top of the Wildcard race. With a newly designed and shortened WHL scheduled, the Oil Kings will be looking to rebound now that they have returned home.
This trip will definitely stand out as a series of missed opportunities for the Oil Kings to continue to establish dominance in their division. However, it is also not unexpected as hockey teams generally cannot sustain a start like the Oil Kings had – the statistical concept of regression to the mean applies to sports teams too.
The Oil Kings now have a lot of factors to consider as they prepare to face Red Deer on October 19th. To start with, Red Deer now sit on top of the Central Division standings with a 5-3-1 record. While the Oil Kings also have 11 points, their 5-6-1 record is far less impressive. Red Deer’s games in hand are also a factor in thinking about the Oil Kings next match up.
Unlike the Oil Kings who started strong, the Rebels lost their first two games of the season. Since then they have rebounded with five wins. With only one player in the Top 10 of the WHL scoring race, the majority of Red Deer’s offence seems to be spread throughout the team. This diffused offence may cause the Oil Kings some trouble as their defensive core looked somewhat depleted on their last road trip. For instance, veteran defenceman Will Warm hasn’t played since the end of September.
The Oil Kings offense has continued to be driven by captain, Trey Fix-Wolansky. With six goals and twelve assists, Fix-Wolansky has been the most consistent Oil Kings Forward. Vince Loschiavo, who has eight goals and four assists, is next in the Oil Kings scoring race. Kemp, Benjafield and Souch round out the Oil Kings Top 5 with 10 points each.
To regain their start of season success, the Oil Kings need stronger showings from their goaltenders. Both Bilious and Myskiw had less than stellar starts on the Oil Kings road trip, and the Oil Kings offence is not strong or diverse enough to counter six to eight goals allowed. While some of the score lines seen on their last road trip might be partially due to a young and inexperienced defense, the Oil Kings will be hoping that both of their goaltenders can pull their save percentages above .900 again. Inconsistent goaltending will make it difficult for the Oil Kings to gain any momentum and add some more wins to their tally.
The Oil Kings have a two game home stand before they head back to Cranbrook to tangle with the Ice again in late October. These next games will help determine the continued tone of the Oil Kings season – the high note of the start or the sour one of their last road trip.