The Edmonton Oil Kings have returned from their holiday break with strong results in their first three games back. The Oil Kings picked up points in each game of their three games over the weekend, earning five of a possible six points and putting themselves in first place in the Central Division. Both the Rebels and Hurricanes – the teams closest to them—have a considerable number of games in hand so the Oil Kings will need to continue their winning ways if they want to stay at the top.
The Oil Kings notched a 7-4 victory on home ice against the Calgary Hitmen on Friday night. Their second period flurry of offense – six goals in all – makes it possibly their most productive 20 minutes this season. The Oil Kings performance was an unexpected delight as their previous meetings with the Hitmen have been much more competitive affairs, and there’s very little Edmonton hockey fans like more than beating the Calgary team… no matter which level of hockey is being played.
The Oil Kings Saturday night game was against the Rebels in Red Deer. The Oil Kings fell 2-1 in the shootout. The Oil Kings and the Rebels renewed their acquaintance on Sunday afternoon to finish their home and home series and the Oil Kings mounted an impressive comeback to upend the Rebels by a score of 5-4.
There were two pieces to Sunday’s game which stand out as notable. First, Todd Scott’s second period was awful. Bookended by decent first and third periods, the recently returned goaltender was not impressive in the middle frame. Second, the Oil Kings offense is starting to diversify. While still primarily driven by Trey Fix-Wolansky, there was consistent offensive pressure from at least two Oil Kings forward lines and flashes from the other two lines.
For all that the offense seems to be settling, it was without two players who have had a significant impact this season – Brett Kemp and Quinn Benjafield were both out due to injury. While Benjafield has been injured since before the holiday break, Kemp’s injury occurred after the Oil Kings return to action.
And if the offense is settling, the defense continues to limp along. Matthew Robertson – probably the best defender on the Oil Kings – was stretchered off the ice in Red Deer on Saturday night. The Oil Kings now have just six defenders to play – two of which are in their rookie year. There are nine defenders on the Oil Kings roster currently, meaning a full third of their defensive options are injured! And all three of those injuries are to defenders the Oil Kings were hoping would play key roles in their 2018-2019 season. It would not be unexpected to see the Oil Kings looking at defenders come trade deadline time if their defensive core continues to fight injuries.
Over all, the Oil Kings have started to position themselves for the inevitable push towards the playoffs which will start late January when WHL trade deadline day has passed. And trade deadline day is coming up quickly --- January 10th.
But before the Oil Kings get to trade deadline day, they have clashes with two strong BC Division teams in Vancouver and Victoria on the 1st and 4th respectively. Quick for those of you that want some affordable New Year’s Day Hockey, the Oil Kings game starts at 2pm...
The next couple weeks will definitely be key for the Oil Kings as they look towards their second season.