Edmonton, AB – Sunday was Military Appreciation Day at Rexall Place as the Edmonton Oil Kings hosted the Kootenay Ice, and it was a war indeed as the WHL Central Division rivals squared off.
The afternoon tilt was a defensive battle from start to finish, as only three goals were scored, and unfortunately for the Oil Kings, two of them belonged to the Ice, who emerged victorious in a slim 2-1 decision.
The tough loss snapped Edmonton’s three-game winning streak and dropped them to 19-17-0-2 on the campaign.
After a scoreless opening frame, defenceman and team captain Brayden McNabb opened the scoring for the Ice on the power play just 41 seconds into the second period, as his point shot eluded goalie Jon Groenheyde though traffic. Matt Fraser then made it 2-0 Kootenay with 2:46 to go in the middle frame, one-timing a pass from behind the net from Max Reinhart — older brother of Oil Kings rookie blue-liner Griffin Reinhart.
The Oil Kings finally got on the board with 40 seconds to go in the game, as leading scorer Michael St. Croix tallied his 21st of the year while the team had Groenheyde pulled for the extra attacker. St. Croix banked a shot off an Ice defenceman and past goalie Nathan Lieuwen from behind the net.
Lieuwen was otherwise flawless between the pipes for the visitors, turning aside 23 of 24 Oil Kings shots for the win. Groenheyde was dealt the loss despite making 23 saves as well. Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal gave plenty of credit to the Ice, who lead the Central Division with a 26-11-1-2 record.
“They’re a big, strong club that plays really well together,” Laxdal said. “They’re a little more experienced than we are, and we made two mistakes that they capitalized and scored on. They’re really strong defensively and keep their opponent’s shots really low. We have to find a way to get pucks to the net, get body position and win those battles. We didn’t have enough push today.”
The Oil Kings wore special edition Military Appreciation Day jerseys to honour the Canadian Armed Forces, and the game-worn uniforms were then auctioned off. An impressive $7,475 was raised from the jersey auction, with proceeds going to Soldier On, a program that improves the quality of life of injured or ill Canadian Forces personnel and former personnel through physical activities.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Oil Kings, as their next action is Tuesday in Medicine Hat as they hit the road to battle the Tigers, who are just a few points back of Kootenay in the Central Division at 24-11-2-0.
The Oil Kings’ next home game is Saturday, Jan. 8, as they host the Regina Pats at 7 p.m. at Rexall Place. It’s Pink at the Rink Night in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and it’s also Ukrainian Night sponsored by Cheemo.
Tickets to every Oil Kings home game are available starting at just $15 at any Ticketmaster outlet, online at oilkings.ca, or by calling 780-414-GOAL (4625).