The Edmonton Oil Kings return to Rogers Place this week after having spent the last week on the road, playing teams from the WHL’s Eastern Conference. While one win, one overtime loss, and one loss is hardly the Oil Kings worst showing on a road trip this season, it doesn’t allow them to build much momentum. In fact, it’s very much like a rollercoaster. This ride may go upside down and do loop-de-loops any minute.
To make matters worse, the Oil Kings last home game, on November 17th, was a family orientated affair with the theme of Wizards and Witches and a distinctly Harry Potter flair. However, their performance on the ice was less than magical and they lost 3-1 to a struggling Kelowna Rockets team. The Oil Kings have been unable to build consistency this season. The season has been full of both winning and losing streaks.
Despite this inconsistency, the Oil Kings sit sixth in the WHL with a 14-9-2 record and 30 points. They are second in their conference and firmly in possession of a playoff berth, despite chasing the Red Deer Rebels for top spot in the Central Conference.
Their next game will be against the Prince Albert Raiders. This is where the JAWS music goes. The Raiders are 23-1-0 this season and are ranked first in the CHL’s Top 10 teams. An almost impossible opponent, the Raiders have won their last 10 games, have the goaltender with the lowest goals against average and most shutouts in the WHL, and the player with the most points and goals in the WHL. Over all, the Raiders will be a considerable test of the Oil Kings ability to defend and be competitive with a team that seems to have it all.
The Oil Kings chances against the Raiders aren’t helped by a number of injuries to their defense. Will Warm has been injured for more of the season than he’s played so far. Defenseman Jascon Alexander and Wyatt McLeod have also suffered injuries this season. The Oil Kings recently traded with the Regina Pats to add defense Parker Galvas to their roster. Trading to add defensemen with limited experience to the roster seems to point to longer term absences for at least one of the Oil Kings defensemen. In good news for the Oil Kings, their forwards seem to be healthy and their secondary scoring has been working fairly well this season. The Oil Kings have seen contributions from Kemp, Socuh, and Neighbours in addition to strong performances from Benjafield and Loschiavo.
Scoring for the Oil Kings still is focused around team captain Trey Fix-Wolansky. While other Oil Kings players have had success, none quite on the same level. Fix-Wolanksy’s 52 points are second in the WHL scoring race. His 37 assists so far this season put him on pace to easily eclipse his 57 assists through the 2017-2018 season. With 15 goals, it doesn’t look like Fix-Wolansky is slowing down in that respect either.
After the Raiders, the Oil Kings will host the Moose Jaw Warriors, a team they recently lost to in overtime. Moose Jaw is ninth the WHL and so fairly evenly matched with the Oil Kings. The Oil Kings have only played Moose Jaw once this season which resulted in an overtime loss just last week. The Oil Kings should be familiar with the style of play as trades and injuries shouldn’t have radically changed the Moose Jaw line up.
Looking just a little bit further ahead on the Oil Kings calendar is a fan favourite game. The Teddy Bear toss is slated for December 8, 2018 against the Kamloops Blazers. This game is always special as when the first goal is scored over ten thousand stuffed animals are thrown onto the ice and subsequently donated to Santa’s Anonymous. The atmosphere is always good and the Teddy Bear toss is one of the best attended games of the season. It’s also one of the neatest traditions in hockey.