LONDON, Ont. – The Edmonton Oil Kings coughed up what appeared to be a sure win in a 4-3 double overtime loss to the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
The Oil Kings carried the play for the majority of the game and led 2-0 after just nine minutes in each team’s final round robin game. With the win, the Foreurs advance to Friday’s semifinal while the Oil Kings await to learn their fate following Wednesday’s game between the Guelph Storm and London Knights.
“It’s not really the position we wanted to be in, letting someone else determine our fate,” Oil Kings defenceman Cody Corbett said.
If London beats Guelph on Wednesday, the Oil Kings will play in Thursday’s tiebreaker with the Knights. A London loss would mean a rematch between these two teams in Friday’s semifinal.
Why the Foreurs won: The game could have got out of hand quickly for the Foreurs with shades of Monday’s 6-3 drubbing against Guelph emerging. The game may have been on Edgars Kulda’s stick midway through the first period. The Latvian forward got a penalty shot but like Ryan Rupert on Friday, was stopped trying to beat Foreurs goalie Antoine Bibeau blocker side.
The save bought Bibeau’s team time to get back in the game, which they did slowly over the course of the outing. Bibeau was called upon entirely too often as there were countless high-quality scoring chances for the Oil Kings throughout the game. Val-d’Or head coach Mario Durocher has often said he wants his team to force shots to the outside and close off the slot, but the prime scoring area in front of Bibeau’s net was available all game.
“That’s probably why we won the game,” Foreurs captain Samuel Henley said of his goaltender. “With him, we could counter attack and we’re really confident in him and we can attack more and without Antoine, we probably wouldn’t even be here (in the MasterCard Memorial Cup) today.”
Goaltending and opportunistic scoring were the keys for Val-d’Or. Henley’s tying goal with under five minutes to play in regulation came on what Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said he thought was icing. Then in overtime Anthony Richard scored the decisive goal after Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart had the puck hop over his stick and lead to a breakaway.
As the game grew longer, so did the Foreurs’ confidence.
Why the Oil Kings lost: The missed penalty shot could have iced this game. Instead, the Oil Kings’ misfires allowed the Foreurs to stay in the game long enough until some bounces started working against them. The Foreurs’ second goal came off a strange bounce when the puck hit a broken stick at the Val-d’Or blueline and created the breakaway for Pierre-Maxime Poudrier.
“We did a good job earlier in the game establishing a forecheck and making them play defence and that’s something we wanted to key on because they were a bit fatigued,” Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar said. “But you have to tip the hat to them, they did a good job defending and hanging around.
“The hockey Gods weren’t with us tonight.”
Beyond the bounces, however, was a lack of killer instinct from the Oil Kings. Laxdal estimated his team played well for 35 of the initial 60 minutes. They certainly carried the play but by not finishing on the many opportunities they had, they opened the door for the opportunistic Foreurs to steal the game.
Player of the Game: Bibeau’s save on Kulda’s penalty shot was the first of many turning points throughout the game, but without it, none of the others likely would have fallen into place. A three-goal lead would have likely ended any hopes the Foreurs had and produced a similar result to Monday’s game, where the Storm jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over Val-d’Or in under six minutes and coasted the rest of the way.
“A penalty shot miss by Eddy Kulda really changed the game,” Laxdal agreed.
Quote of the day: The Oil Kings don’t make it easy on themselves. They gave up a three-goal lead in the third period of Game 6 in the Western Hockey League final at home against Portland before winning Game 7 on the road. Now they may have to play a tiebreaker on Thursday.
“It’s not good to say but we’re almost comfortable in this position,” Reinhart said. “You never want to be here but I think we’ve made the best of it so far and we always respond well.”