The Leduc Oil Kings season is finished… for now.
The Oil Kings won’t be able to challenge for the title of Albert Midget Hockey League (AMHL) champions after they were eliminated 3-1 in the best-of-five South Division final by the St. Albert Raiders.
“It was a close series and we’re going to learn from it,” said Greg Stamler, head coach of the Oil Kings.
Leduc couldn’t overcome a 2-0 series hole despite being the No. 1 ranked team in the division, one spot ahead of St. Albert.
The Oil Kings lost the first game of the series in heartbreaking fashion by surrendering a late 2-0 lead, ending in a 3-2 defeat, which Stamler felt was the reason his team ended up losing the series.
“The critical game of the series was the first one. If you win that one, you set the tone for the rest of the series and if we would have won we would have kept home ice advantage, so that’s what lost us the series,” said Stamler.
Another critical loss the Oil Kings had to deal with for the entire series was the absence of their captain and scoring machine from the blue line, Jarrett Brown.
“He ran our power play from the backend and had seven points in three games against Fort Saskatchewan, so losing him for the entire series was huge,” explained Stamler.
In the first game of the series, the Raiders squeaked out a 3-2 win at the Leduc Recreation Centre on Mar. 11, followed by a 5-3 win on home ice two nights later.
But Leduc turned the tables in Game 3, exploding for seven goals in 7-3 win to cut the series lead in half.
Cole MacDonald, Kord Pankewicz, Doug Morris, Evan Polei, Jacob Williamson, Carter Huebner and Braydon Harris all scored for the Oil Kings in the win, while Brett Zarowny stopped 28 shots.
On the road trying to stay alive, the Oil Kings were shut down in Game 4, losing a 1-0 battle. The win for the Raiders was a complete reversal of fortune from the regular season, as both losses to the Oil Kings came via a 1-0 score.
A power play goal near the midway mark of the second period ended up being the winning goal for the Raiders. Despite launching 33 shots towards the Raiders’ Wyatt Hoflin, the Oil Kings could not find the back of the net to even the series up at two apiece.
With the series win, the Raiders moved on to play the defending league champions, the Red Deer Rebels, in the AMHL final. Leduc will now take a week off to rest up some injured players and re-focus for the upcoming TELUS Cup at the end of the April.
Since the Oil Kings will be facing the best of the best, having witnessed who stepped up and who didn’t in the AMHL playoffs will give Stamler something to go by as he prepares his team for the National Midget Championship.
The line of Morris, Polei and Richard Dartnell surprised Stamler with their offensive and defensive prowess.
“They gave us another solid line.”
Once the Oil Kings are fully rested from their playoff run they will essentially start all over again in preparation for the TELUS Cup.
“It’s going to be training camp all over again for us,” said Stamler.