Storm and Oil Kings lay it all on the line for Memorial Cup
By Aaron Bell
It took the Edmonton Oil Kings longer to get to the championship game than any other team in the history of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The WHL champions needed a goal by Curtis Lazar in the third extra period of Friday’s semi-final game – the longest in MasterCard Memorial Cup history – against the Val-d’Or Foreurs to claim their spot against the Guelph Storm in today’s championship final (4:00 p.m. Eastern on Sportsnet and TVA Sports).
Now, the Oil Kings are hoping to keep that momentum rolling to help them become the first team in the tournament to defeat the Storm.
“They’re obviously a really good team – they finished 3-0 in this tournament so far for a reason,” Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart said. “They have a lot of skill up front. We have to eliminate turnovers and just try to get traffic on the net.”
The Storm skated to a 5-2 win over the Oil Kings when they met in the round robin portion of the tournament last Saturday. Eight days later, the Oil Kings hope that they learned some things that will help them get past the OHL champions.
“We’ve got to get greasy and go hard to the net,” forward Mitch Moroz said. “Hopefully we can knock in a few in front.”
The Oil Kings have already enjoyed a tremendous season. They defeated the Portland Winterhawks in Game 7 of the WHL Championship Series to earn their second trip to the MasterCard Memorial Cup in the past three seasons. They lost in the tie-breaker game that year and after going 1-2 in the round robin this year, they find themselves one win away from winning junior hockey’s biggest prize.
“Our year has been incredible,” Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal said. “We were the first team in the history of the WHL to win Game 7 (of the championship series) on the road, the longest game in the history of the Memorial Cup – the kids are writing their own story. Hopefully we can finish the chapter – finish the book here on Sunday.”
Meanwhile the Storm have been idle since Wednesday after finishing the opening round with a perfect three-win record. They have only lost four of the 23 post-season games they’ve played this year and they are a confident bunch heading into today’s championship game.
“We’ve had a game plan and we’re sticking to it,” veteran forward Scott Kosmachuk said. “That’s definitely one of our keys to success. Everybody is playing great right now and producing and doing their job.”
The Storm opened the tournament with a 5-2 win over Edmonton last Saturday and followed up with a 6-3 win over Val-d’Or on Monday. They knocked the host London Knights out of the tournament with a commanding 7-2 win on Wednesday to clinch a berth in the championship game – and a three-day rest.
“It feels good to get a little bit of rest,” Kosmachuk said. “It’s key in this tournament.”
The Storm have enjoyed a tremendous season of their own. They won the OHL’s regular season championship and then knocked off the third place Knights and second place Erie Otters before beating the North Bay Battalion to win their third OHL championship.
They are looking for their first MasterCard Memorial Cup title.
“The core of this team has been the core for the past three years,” defenceman Zac Leslie said. “I think it helps us that we’ve known each other for that long. I think it’s something that makes us close and allows us to play the way we do.”
Leslie said that even with Guelph’s win over Edmonton in the opening round, they won’t take the WHL champs lightly in the championship game.
“I think they’re going to try to get back at us for beating them in the opening round,” Leslie said. “We have to prepare as if it’s going to be the toughest game of our season.”