Oil Kings vs Rebels: Division Rivals

Sam Gagner etched his name into the record book beside Wayne Gretzky last night with eight points in one game.  The Oil Kings found some of that hockey magic was lingering on their home ice as they took on one of their division rivals, the Red Deer Rebels.

The Oil Kings are trying to hold on to the crown as they currently sit atop the WHL’s Eastern Division. Red Deer is trying to bust in the back door as they are currently sitting two points out of a playoff spot.

What does all this mean?  It means we could see a repeat of last year’s first round all-Alberta playoff matchup between the two teams. The difference is that this year Edmonton is the offensive powerhouse and Red Deer is fighting just to get in.

After this 3-2 loss, Red Deer is going to have to figure out some way to calm the offensive wave that is the Edmonton Oil Kings in its two remaining battles.

Edmonton had the nitro going right from the start as they established a good forecheck in the first with big hits by Curtis Lazar and TJ Foster. When the finesse guys are punishing the defensemen, one can be sure that it was stressed in the locker room before the game. The Oil Kings took that spark and blazed their way to a 2-1 lead after the first. Mitch Moroz and Michael St. Croix scored for Edmonton, and Charles Inglis got a power play goal to keep the Rebels in the game.

Moroz got his second of the night, as did Inglis, and it was still had a tight game going down the stretch. Red Deer killed over a minute of a five-on-three disadvantage, and had its own three-minute advantage after a major penalty to Edmonton. The Rebels kept themselves in it and had a great chance to pull even but it was not to be.

Red Deer is struggling offensively in these tight games. Besides Inglis line, Matt Dumba and Alex Petrovic, they really didn’t have many good scoring chances, getting outshot 33-25 for the night.

The Standouts

Moroz had a great game, scoring two of Edmonton’s goals, including the game winner.  The 6-foot-2, 210 pound forward is a handful whether he’s throwing knuckles or driving to the net. As it stands now, he is ranked No. 171 according to the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings, but with his size, grit and performances like this one, Moroz is bound to become a hot commodity.

St. Croix continues his onslaught on WHL goalies, as he has scored 33 goals and 80 points in 52 games.  The New York Rangers have to be feeling good about their fourth round pick from last year, as he is closing in on the WHL point leaders.

Inglis had a great game, and he is one of the biggest offensive threats that Red Deer has. Inglis is sixth in scoring on the team this year, but has played 20 less games than everyone else.  He is having a point-per-game season, and, unfortunately, is not getting much help from the other forward lines of the Rebels. He was the only “plus” player Red Deer had in the game against Edmonton.

Dumba also had a good game for Red Deer. It’s strange to see him play a game where he doesn’t jump over the moon and is still noteworthy. It’s not that he doesn’t have a well-rounded game; it’s just that he’s usually crushing people or shooting out the lights. There were flashes of that tonight, but the little breaks weren’t there for the spectacular to happen.

Dumba successfully rushed the puck up the wing only to have someone step offside. He lined guys up only to have them stop short and dump the puck instead of crossing the tracks.  Still, this, and the fact that Edmonton had control of the play, allowed a lot of time to watch Dumba play positional defense below the dots. He has a great stick because of his quick reflexes, and stopped at least one probable goal by staying with his man and winning a stick battle.

But the biggest moment in the game for the young defenseman was when Edmonton had over a minute of five-on-three and then another 50 some seconds of five-on-four with Petrovic in the penalty box for the whole two minutes. Dumba stayed on for the entire two-minute kill, and kept his team together in their own zone.  Defensively, he and Petrovic both had a really decent game, and they both got an assist on the power-play goal by Inglis.

Having said all that, Dumba and Petrovic are two of Red Deer’s top five in points, with not one forward over 20 goals and not one over 45 points. Compare that to Edmonton, who was four guys over 50 points, with St. Croix leading the way at 80. One can see why these two teams are where they are in the standings.

But this is not the end of the story. These teams will meet up two more times this year, and, if Red Deer can put some wins together, the two teams may more battles to come before the summer.

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