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Edmonton Oil Kings down Red Deer Rebels in 2021-22 WHL season opener

Oil Kings forward Josh Williams notches hat trick in victory

Oil Kings 4 Rebels 1

Josh Williams has been a thorn in the Red Deer Rebels side for the better part of three seasons.

The 20-year-old Edmonton Oil Kings forward was at it again Friday, potting a hat trick in a dominant 4-1 win for Edmonton at Rogers place over the Rebels in the 2021-22 WHL season opener.

The line of Williams, Carter Souch and Jakub Demek combined for eight points in the victory.

While that line was the catalyst on offense, the Rebels couldn’t get much past Oil Kings netminder Sebastian Cossa, who was picked 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Draft. Cossa looked calm, cool and collected in the win, turning aside 35 shots.

“At times we had chances, we didn’t have enough traffic. I thought we had some chances,” said Red Deer head coach Steve Konowalchuk in his first regular season game behind the Rebels bench.

“I don’t think necessarily that was our issue. We gave up a few 10-bell chances, that they capitalized on. We have to get more traffic and there are some areas we can be stronger on pucks to carry a bit more play.”

Even in the dominant victory, Edmonton was missing a pair of NHL draftees – 2021 ninth overall pick Dylan Guenther and 2020 26th overall selection Jake Neighbours as well as Jalen Luypen.

Williams, who scored five times in seven games between the two clubs last year, opened the scoring late in the first period, off the cycle after some poor coverage from the Rebels.

The 20-year-old winger punched in his first of the season, finding a soft spot in the Rebels defensive zone coverage and chipping a shot past Rebels netminder Chase Coward.

Jacob Boucher extended the lead in the second after he snuck behind the Rebels blue line in the neutral zone. He fired a laser over the Coward’s glove when former Rebel Jaxsen Wiebe sprung him in all alone.

Williams buried his second of the night, a dagger just 30 seconds into the third period to make it 3-0. The veteran forward blast a one-timer from the top of the circle past Coward on the power play after an Arshdeep Bains penalty in the dying minutes of the second.

He scored his third of the night early in the third on another nice feed for Demek, who assisted on his first two goals.

“At times I thought we played some pretty good hockey. I felt we were in the hockey game until they scored that power-play goal early in the third,” Konowalchuk said.

“The wheels fell off for about 10 minutes there. I thought we got our game going back a little bit the last 10 minutes of the third. At times there was some good hockey. We gotta learn that it’s every shift, every puck battle.”

Ben King scored the only Rebels goal with just under four minutes to play in the third period, a wrist shot that eluded the Cossa’s glove.

Coward kept the Rebels alive in the contest, making 28 saves in the loss as the Rebels killed off six of seven Oil Kings’ power plays.

Red Deer will host the Oil Kings in the Red Deer Advocate Home Opener on Saturday night with puck drop set for 7 p.m. at the Peavey Mart Centrium.

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