The Calgary Flames avoided a third consecutive loss to the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-3 win Saturday night to capture their 100th regular season victory in the Battle of Alberta.
With 307 kilometres separating the Scotiabank Saddledome and Rexall Place the Flames and Oilers are the perfect distance from one another to bring a renewed sense of excitement to every game in their respective rinks, while creating an unspoken urgency to lay claim to bragging rights with a win.
For Calgary, to win their first game of 2013 was no doubt a relief but to win their first game against the Oilers after struggling to compete against opponents in the first three games made it that much more significant, earning Curtis Glencross a fist bump from general manager Jay Feaster post game.
Captain Jarome Iginla, who recorded one point in the victory, says rivalry games are so important every season.
“They’re huge momentum shifts and whoever wins those, you feel that much better about yourself and for the other team, it’s worse than just a regular loss,” he said.
Iginla, 35, is part of a Flames roster with only four players under the age of 25, making Calgary the third oldest team in the NHL with an average age of 29.2, according to hockey statistics website QuantHockey.com.
However, the Oilers are the fifth youngest team in the league with eight players under the age of 25 and an average age of 27.3 years old.
So, does the age of these provincial rivals change excitement of the game?
At 19-years-old, Edmonton centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t alive when the Battle of Alberta was at its highest peak in the 1980s when both teams were perennial post-season contenders, but he knows the Oilers are bringing a new edge to the rivalry with its young talent.
“I think it’s definitely evened out and it’ll be a good test for us every time we play these guys,” he said.
Calgary rookie Sven Baertschi, 20, is the youngest player in the lineup and looks at matchups against young teams as the perfect time to evaluate his personal growth and performance.
“It’s a good opportunity to compare yourself to the other guys,” he said. “It’s also a good chance for me to see where I’m at and what I have to work on and it’s the same for them. You always try to compare to each other.”
Regardless if the Oilers play at home or on the road, Nugent-Hopkins believes there’s so much excitement for every game against the Flames.
“It’s not hard to get up for games like this and growing up, even in Vancouver, you always watch these games because they’re intense. I think that’s just the way it is,” he laughed. “I know it was definitely like that last year so we expect it every single game.”