Edmonton, AB – It was CN Hockey Hooky day on Wednesday afternoon at Rexall Place, and the Edmonton Oil Kings were forced to learn some tough lessons, as they gave up four goals in the third period to lose 5-2 to the Kootenay Ice.
About 5,000 kids from schools across the Edmonton area and northern Alberta were in the crowd to watch the Oil Kings battle the Ice on Wednesday. The Oil Kings were in control for 40 minutes and took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but the WHL Central Division-leading Ice exploded for four unanswered markers in the final 16:34 to win 5-2.
The division rivals had squared off three times already this season heading into Wednesday’s action, with the Ice winning all three games by one goal, including one game decided in a shootout. It looked like the latest tilt was headed in the same direction, as both teams were stingy defensively through 40 minutes.
Max Reinhart, older brother of Oil Kings rookie defenceman Griffin Reinhart, scored his first of two goals to open the scoring eight minutes into the middle frame, but Dylan Wruck tied it up for Edmonton just 10 seconds later, banking in a shot off goalie Nathan Lieuwen from the side of the net. Right-winger Mark Reners, playing in his first game since getting traded to Edmonton from the Vancouver Giants on Sunday, earned an assist on the equalizer. The Oil Kings made it 2-1 with 4:25 to go in the second period, as T.J. Foster lifted a backhand shot top-shelf on Lieuwen from in close.
The third period was all Kootenay, though, as the visitors got goals from James Martin, Edmonton Oilers draft pick Drew Czerwonka on the power play, Matt Fraser and Reinhart again short-handed to close out the come-from-behind victory. Both goalies faced plenty of pucks, as Lieuwen made 36 saves for the win, while Edmonton’s Jon Groenheyde turned aside 32 in a losing cause.
“We made mistakes today in January that we should only be making in October,” Oil Kings Head Coach Derek Laxdal said following the loss. “We did a great job getting a 2-1 lead going into the third, but right now we’re not that great at finishing games off, and that showed today. We just weren’t responsible enough in our defensive zone. We’ve got a tough two months here in January and February, and it’s really going to define our season.”
The Oil Kings (20-19-0-2) play their next four games on the road, battling the Regina Pats on Friday, Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday, Moose Jaw Warriors on Sunday and Kootenay Ice on Tuesday. They return home for 70’s Night against Moose Jaw on Friday, Jan. 21 and Minor Hockey Night versus the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday, Jan. 22, both at 7 p.m. at Rexall Place.
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).