LONDON, Ont. – The Edmonton Oil Kings wanted another shot at the Guelph Storm and now they have it with the MasterCard Memorial Cup championship on the line.
The Storm beat the Oil Kings 5-2 in each team’s tournament opener. The Western Hockey League champs led 2-1 early in the second period but the lead evaporated soon after and the Storm never looked back.
Programming Note: Watch the final of the MasterCard Memorial Cup between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Guelph Storm with coverage beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. PT on all Sportsnet regional channels.
“Everyone knew that game was pretty close,” said Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar, who ended the longest game in MasterCard Memorial Cup history in the third overtime over the Val-d’Or Foreurs in Friday’s semifinal. “We were hoping we could get a change of result this time around.”
The Oil Kings got massages Saturday morning to release some of the lactic acids after the marathon game on Friday. Aside from their media availability, they weren’t going near a rink on Saturday. The Oil Kings are fine with the Storm receiving the attention.
“Guelph is the favourite in the game if you read all the articles,” Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal said. “We have a great hockey club. They’re resilient, they’re confident, there’s a lot of character in that dressing room. They’ve won a championship in the Western Hockey League, they’ve battled, we weren’t even supposed to be there and now we’re in the Memorial Cup final. Our kids are underdogs. There’s no pressure on our kids.”
How crucial is an early goal?
Their first meeting was the only game the Storm didn’t score within the first six minutes in this tournament. They’re known for jumping out to an early lead and making the opposition play catch up, which becomes a dangerous game since opening up the ice leaves a team vulnerable to the Storm piling on the goals quickly.
“It’s kind of like Portland, they’re a team that will get one, and then a couple minutes later they’ll get another one, and maybe get another one after that,” Oil Kings defenceman Cody Corbett said. “If you let them get that first one, you really have to stomp that fire out before it gets blazing.”
Kerby Rychel scored the game’s first goal with just five seconds remaining in the opening frame in their first meeting. Although Edmonton scored twice shortly after the second period started, the Storm are confident playing from behind, though that did appear to be their Achilles heel in the OHL final with North Bay.
“We like playing in front,” Storm captain Matt Finn said. “We like getting out and getting on them early.”
Which team will win the physical battle?
Their first meeting was by far the most physical of all the games in this tournament so far. Each team began the game by trying to impose its will and Edmonton appeared to have the advantage until Storm veteran Ryan Horvat dropped the gloves with Blake Orban. The Storm may be looking to do the same after the Oil Kings’ long semifinal game.
“Both teams will want to establish the physical play,” Laxdal said. “Obviously from Guelph’s perspective, they’re going to try to wear us down… We have to play that physical game. We want to grind it out.”
“They’re a big team,” Storm forward Tyler Bertuzzi said. “They’re a fast skating team too. They chip pucks and they crash and bang so they’re going to come out hard. We know what to expect and we have to come out harder.”
“We have to stay physical on them the whole game,” Corbett noted.
Which side will momentum ride with?
Both teams are known to seize momentum and milk it for all its worth. Given the Storm’s depth, once the puck begins bouncing their way, the constant wave of attack becomes overwhelming for their opposition.
Edmonton scored twice in less than 30 seconds in their first game with Guelph, but the Storm responded with four unanswered goals.
“Momentum’s a really scary thing,” Lazar said.
In a single-game elimination, the difference between winning and losing can be so marginal. A fortunate bounce can turn the tide and with the way these two teams grab hold of momentum, it could be a defining factor in crowning the national champions.