WIN OR ELSE FOR OIL KINGS
After a dominating run through the Western Hockey League playoffs, it’s now do or die tonight for Mark Pysyk and the Edmonton Oil Kings at the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Quebec.
Edmonton will face the host Shawinigan Cataractes tonight in a tiebreaker game at 7 p.m. ET (NHL Network-US, Sportsnet-Canada). The winner will move on to face the Saint John Sea Dogs in Friday’s semi-final game. By virtue of a first-place finish, the Ontario Hockey League-champion London Knights have already earned a spot in Sunday’s championship game.
History isn’t exactly on either team’s side tonight. Only two teams in Memorial Cup history have advanced to the final game after playing in a tiebreaker: Victoriaville (2002) and Windsor (2009). However, that Windsor team (led by Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall) did go on to win the championship two games later.
Edmonton and Shawinigan both come into tonight’s contest with a 1-2 record after the round-robin portion of the tournament. The good news for Edmonton is that their only win was a 4-3 triumph over Shawinigan on opening night last Friday, thanks to a game-winning goal by Henrik Samuelsson late in the third period.
Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal has been frustrated with his team’s performance through the first six days. The Oil Kings have scored a tournament-low seven goals in three games, while also allowing 12 – the most of the four teams. This is a far cry from the Edmonton team that scored 74 goals and allowed just 43 in their 20 playoff games.
“They’re not seeing the team that we are. Definitely not. 100 per cent,” Laxdal told reporters after a 4-1 loss to London on Tuesday night. “We’re playing like we’re waiting for an invitation to join the game. We’ve earned the right to be here and we’re not showing that. We’ve got to show what we did this regular season to get here. It’s not a mistake we’re here; we’re just playing like it is.”
It’s also been a tough week for Pysyk, who was a rock for the Oil Kings during their march to the WHL championship. Pysyk has collected just a pair of assists in three games, and was a minus-three in a 5-2 loss to Saint John on Monday. He also has eight penalty minutes in three games – after picking up just 16 PIMs in 20 WHL playoff games.