The Edmonton Oil Kings stole Game 1 of the WHL Championship Series with a 4 – 1 victory over the Winterhawks in Portland Friday night.
The home squad poured everything they had on Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit in the opening 40 minutes but Edmonton weathered the storm.
Dylan Wruck scored on the Oil Kings first shot, Henrik Samuelsson scored a pair of goals and Curtis Lazar added some insurance in a game where Edmonton could've been in a big hole if it weren’t for the heroics of goaltender Laurent Brossoit who finished with 35 saves on the night.
“In the first three series I’d have to kind of keep my focus when I wouldn't get a shot for a period at a time,” said Brossoit who looked like the player that won the 2012 WHL Playoff MVP. “Coming into this game I got a consistent amount of shots. You can ask any goalie, they love that and it keeps them in the game. I was just glad I was seeing the puck tonight.” “If you look at the first period, Portland came out with a lot of energy and were really physical and it kind of caught us on our heels a little bit,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “We weathered the storm. I guess you could say we bent but we didn’t break. L-B was outstanding including some of the saves he made in the first period and as the game went along it was huge for our confidence to get that first goal.”
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Stephane Legault also recorded a big night with three assists, a couple of big hits and he caused a couple of turn overs that led to a pair of the Oil Kings goals.
The Oil Kings silenced the raucous crowd just over two minutes into the contest on Edmonton’s first shot of the game. It came after the Winterhawks set a torrid pace in the first few shifts of the game. St. Albert native and Oilers draft pick Travis Ewanyk drove hard to the net on his backhand and threw the puck into the slot for Dylan Wruck. The WHL Most Sportsmanlike player of the year roofed a backhand past Mac Carruth for his second goal and 15th point of the playoffs.
A lot of credit on the Oil Kings second goal goes to Legault. He started his momentum swinging shift by leveling Winterhawks defenceman Derek Pouliot into the Oil Kings bench. Seconds later, he made another nice play by keeping the puck in the offensive zone and then he dished the puck off to Henrik Samuelsson who picked the corner for his 10th of the post-season. Edmonton was up 2-0 on the score clock despite being outshot 27-14.
Samuelsson’s second of the night was a timely goal to say the least. The Hawks’ Taylor Leier just scored Portland’s first goal three minutes into the third period. The crowd was going nuts while the public address announcer was recapping the goal when Samuelsson quickly spun around and fired a shot from the slot that found the back of the net. The two-goal lead was restored just :47 seconds after the Hawks ice-breaker and the crowd was stunned.
Lazar showed some tremendous hand-eye coordination on the final goal of the game. First he tipped a point shot from Keegan Lowe battling in front with Portland’s top prospect Seth Jones. The puck deflected high off the end boards and bounced back in front of the net. Nobody seemed to know where the puck was except Lazar, who tracked it all the way and knocked it out of the air again for his ninth goal of the playoffs.
Game 2 of the series is tonight at the Rose Garden in Portland.