LONDON, Ont. – Curtis Lazar ended the longest game in MasterCard Memorial Cup history with a deflected shot and now the Edmonton Oil Kings will join the Guelph Storm in Sunday’s final.
The third-year forward made amends for a defensive zone mistake that led to Val-d’Or’s tying goal with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. Lazar was late to Guillaume Gelinas whose shot found its way through the crowd for the tying goal. He made up for it with a deflection on a slap pass from Cody Corbett in the third overtime, ending the marathon game at 102 minutes, 42 seconds.
“Reid Petryk made a great play in traffic, was able to lay and pass it back to Corbett and we sort of made eye contact,” Lazar said. “He just threw a slap pass on my tape. It’s actually funny, we worked on those slap passes last practice. For it to pay off like it did tonight was pretty incredible.”
Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal said the Oil Kings practised the slap passes in order to change the angle of the shot since Val-d’Or goalie Antoine Bibeau was stopping everything.
“We actually took a page out of Guelph’s book,” he said. “Guelph did a great job against Val-d’Or in that game so we had a couple good looks in overtime and Cody Corbett made a great shot … probably the only way you’re going to beat Bibeau tonight.”
Why the Oil Kings won: The Oil Kings carried the play through much of regulation but squandered a 3-1 lead with less than 25 minutes in regulation. They made the most of their offensive opportunities with some well placed shots. They were patient with their shot selection and tried changing angles all night. Mitch Moroz scored their second goal after accepting a pass in the slot and turned quickly to fire it far side before Bibeau could get across to cover the angle. Edgars Kulda out-waited Bibeau in the slot and found a yawning cage when he pulled it to the backhand on the third goal.
They had sustained offensive zone pressure for several sequences, particularly from their top line of Moroz, Kulda and Henrik Samuelsson. Their offence was creating chances throughout the overtime periods, wearing down the Foreurs defence with extended shifts.
One of the biggest differences was the penalty kill in the second overtime. It felt apparent the game would end when one team made a mistake, which wasn’t the case after Ashton Sautner’s high clearing attempt went over the glass.
“It’s a big relief,” Lazar said. “It’s all business. It’s tough because you’re out there, you’re so nervous you don’t want to make a mistake but you can’t play like that. You go out there and just leave it all out there and hang your heads high. Thankfully, it’s over.”
Why the Foreurs lost: Edmonton’s offensive game plan was executed perfectly, even if it took nearly the equivalent of two games to end the marathon. The Foreurs were better at closing off the slot in this game but the chances were still there when the Oil Kings made Foreurs defencemen commit before feeding an open man on the far side.
They played much better than they had against Edmonton the first time on Tuesday in the round robin, but the Foreurs were still hanging on for several stretches. Without Bibeau, this game wouldn’t have lasted as long as it had. Val-d’Or won twice in this tournament on the back of its goaltender but he couldn’t stop them all. The quality of shots he faced was more overwhelming than the quantity throughout the tournament, and eventually the Oil Kings found a way to beat him.
However, once they tied the game with 36 seconds in regulation, they started believing and were a shot away from moving to Sunday’s final.
“I was like my players, we were confident we could get the next one,” head coach Mario Durocher said after the tying goal. “We had momentum. I think the power play, it came close but that’s hockey.”
Player of the Game: Bibeau frustrated Oil Kings’ shooters for a second time in this tournament. He was the catalyst to his team’s success and proved how far a hot goalie could carry a team. Even in a losing effort, Bibeau stood tallest.
Quote of the day: Last summer, the Oil Kings lost a teammate when Kristians Pelss died in his native Latvia. Pelss was part of the 2012 team that won the Ed Chynoweth Cup and their motto this season has been “Play for Pelssy.” Moroz looked to his former teammate and God for motivation in a prayer during an overtime intermission.
“There’s different moments in time when we need (Pelss) and we need a break and we need a little extra boost and I think that’s coming down from heaven,” Moroz said. “Just to have that guardian angel for our team is something that gives us the ability to never really lose.”