Sunday, 25 May 2014

To Victors Go The Sp-Oil Kings

The Edmonton Oil Kings finally brought the Memorial Cup back to Edmonton after a long absence from that city after defeating the Guelph Storm 6-3 at the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup in London, Ontario. The last time the Memorial Cup called Edmonton home was way back in 1966, but the WHL champions knocked off the heavily-favored OHL champions in the final to give the WHL its first Memorial Cup winner since 2008! And while no one will suggest that the Oil Kings didn't deserve this victory, they did face some battles to get there.

Robby Fabbri of the Guelph Storm put the Oil Kings in a hole just a minute into the game with his finish on a gorgeous three-way passing play. Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry had no chance as Fabbri tapped home a beauty pass into the yawning cage. The Oil Kings would respond, though, as Cody Corbett's slapshot through traffic beat Storm goaltender Justin Nichols on the powerplay at 9:38 to even the game at 1-1. There was no fancy play here - just a pure slapper that was true to the mark from Corbett. At the 16:36 mark, Guelph jumped at ahead again as Pius Suter was stopped on a breakaway, but Stephen Pierog corralled the rebound and found the back of the net with his shot to give the Storm the 2-1 lead heading into the dressing room. Credit goes to Jarry for making the stop on the breakaway, but the Storm cleaned up the rebound nicely.

The second period, however was owned by the Oil Kings. Tyler Robertson tied the game just 1:58 into the period as he snuck into the face-off circle, forced a turnover, and ripped home a wrist shot past a startled Nichols! Guelph had a couple of chances to move the puck, but it bounced off skates and found its way onto Robertson's stick for the 2-2 marker. Edgars Kulda, who had a magnificent tournament, put the Oil Kings ahead at the 6:06 mark while in the powerplay. Some good puck movement after entering the zone saw Henrik Samuelsson feed Ashton Sautner at the point. Sautner spotted a wide-open Kulda on the left side, dished the puck, and Kulda wired it high past Nichols for the 3-2 lead! The Oil Kings made it a 4-2 advantage at the 14:19 mark after a Guelph turnover at the Edmonon blueline. Kulda fed Mitch Moroz on the left side, and his wrist shot beat Nichols on what should have been a somewhat-routine save, but it found the twine. After two periods of play, the Oil Kings would carry the 4-2 lead into the third period.

Just 3:23 into the final frame, the Storm cut the lead to one goal. A battle in the corner of the Edmonton zone was won by Zack Mitchell who skated the puck out before passing to Kirby Rychel behind the net. As Rychel skated around the net, he pulled Jarry to the left post as he fed a nifty backhand pass out to Mitchell on the right side. With Jarry way out of position, Mitchell made no mistake in burying the puck to make it a 4-3 game. Just 1:37 later, though, Edgars Kulda and Henrik Samuelsson caught the Storm in an odd-man rush. Samuelsson beat Jason Dickinson down the middle of the ice and converted the feed from Kulda for the 5-3 lead on a great play. With 1:26 to play, Samuelsson added his second goal of the game into an empty net that sealed the Memorial Cup win for the Oil Kings!

Edgars Kulda was named as the MVP of the Memorial Cup tournament, scoring seven points including a goal and two assists in the final, to earn the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy. The Oil Kings finished first in the WHL's Eastern Conference with 50 wins and 103 points before winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup in a thrilling seven-game series over the Portland Winterhawks. Needless to say, this is a memorable win for the Oil Kings and their fans!

Congratulations to the Edmonton Oil Kings, your 2014 Memorial Cup champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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