LONDON, ONT. — The Edmonton Oil Kings bounced back in a big way as two goals each from Edgars Kulda and Luke Bertolucci helped lead them to a convincing 5-2 victory of the host London Knights on Sunday night.
“We knew our backs were against the wall a little bit. We wanted to respond and get it back to 1-1 and even things up. Resilient group as always and I’m proud of our effort,” said Oil Kings forward and Oilers prospect Mitch Moroz after the game.
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal echoed the thoughts of Moroz when it came to the team’s ability to bounce back.
“You’ve got to give your group a lot of credit. I think we showed that resiliency tonight. London came out in the first seven or eight minutes with a real good push and (then) we kind of established a bit of traction in our game,” he began.
“At the end of the day, it’s the first win of the tournament for us and we get a day of rest tomorrow before moving on to Tuesday.”
With the win, the Oil Kings record at the Memorial Cup improves to 1-1 with one more round robin game against Val d’Or on Tuesday. The club also clinched at least a spot in Thursday night’s tiebreaker with a win Tuesday guaranteeing them a date in Friday’s semifinal match-up.
After London registered the first four shots on goal through the game’s first five minutes, there was some nastiness after the whistle from both sides as things got unpleasant quickly. Mitch Moroz and Zach Bell headed to the box for roughing to set up a four-on-four situation for the next two minutes.
During the four-on-four, Matt Rupert tripped up Mads Eller to give the Oil Kings the game’s first power play. Less than a minute later, Josh Anderson collided with Tristan Jarry behind the net for goaltender interference and the Oil Kings had a five-on-three for the next 1:05.
They were unable to convert on the two-man advantage but 30 seconds after the two penalties expired, Reid Petryk took a feed from Edgars Kulda and wired a one-timer from the high slot that went top corner past London Knights goaltender Anthony Stolarz to put Edmonton on the board first, 1-0.
After London intially had a 4-0 lead in shots, Edmonton roared back, outshooting London 12-6 in total by the time the period hit the 13-minute mark.
With 6:21 to go in the first, Kulda bumped Stolarz behind the London net and the Knights received a power play of their own. However, the PP was negated shortly after when Brady Austin was sent to the box for London.
London’s Ryan Rupert was tripped up while on a shorthanded breakaway, setting up a second London Knights penalty shot in two games for them at this tournament. On the penalty shot, Rupert tried to deke and go five hole but Jarry was equal to the task.
At the end of the period, Dakota Mermis got a glove in the face of Riley Kieser and the referees sent him off for roughing to set up an Oil Kings power play to start the second.
Seconds after a London penalty expired, Edgars Kulda skated up ice and cut to the slot before wiring a high shot past Stolarz to make it a two-goal lead for Edmonton.
Both sides traded power plays as the game passed the midway point. London started to really pour on the pressure, eventually pulling even with Edmonton in shots at 22-22 with about six minutes to play in the second.
With just under four minutes to go in the period, London finally scored its first goal of the tournament. Alex Basso blasted a shot from the right faceoff circle that Jarry got a piece of, but not enough as the puck trickled over the line.
It took the Oil Kings less than two minutes to get that goal and their two-goal lead back. Kulda picked up a Cody Corbett rebound in front and took several shots on the London goal. His backhand attempt from the side of the net somehow found its way in off Stolarz to make it 3-1.
Shots on goal after two periods were 30-28 for Edmonton
London started the third period with a change in goal. Jake Patterson was between the pipes for the home club.
“We knew that London could score and could score quick so I thought we did a real good job in the third period limiting their chances,” said Laxdal.
Oil Kings made it a 4-1 lead after Bertolucci rifled a shot from the right circle off the post and in nearly six minutes into the period.
Just before the third period’s midway point, Dakota Mermis picked up a rebound during a scramble in front of the net and puts the puck in to draw London back within a pair of goals but a late power play goal by Bertolucci made it 5-2.
“I’m not usually on the power play so it was kind of different for me but I was excited to get that one,” said Bertolucci.
Final shot count was 43-40 for Edmonton.