Oil Kings 4 Rebels 2 (Oil Kings win best-of-seven series 4-0)
The Edmonton Oil Kings showed why they are undefeated in the playoffs with a four-game sweep over the Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday at Peavey Mart Centrium.
Red Deer was outshot 51-16 and goalie Connor Ungar made 47 saves to keep his team in it as the Oil Kings dominated for long stretches in the 4-2 victory.
In the end, the Oil Kings were just too much to handle and beat the Rebels in four games in the best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference series.
The Rebels were down 4-1 heading into the third period but fought back hard, with Blake Gustafson bringing them within two with a shorthanded goal at 13:47.
Gustafson was sent in alone by Jackson van de Leest and lifted the puck over Oil Kings netminder Sebastian Cossa with a backhand deke. Liam Keeler drew the second assist on the play.
But that’s as close as they got, ending what has been a memorable season for the Rebels.
“It’s hard right now. We’re all disappointed. Right now, it hurts,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“We pushed at the end a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t see any give-up in our games. And that’s what you expect and that’s what you want.”
The team was prepared but came out of the gate too tentative and players seemed afraid to make mistakes.
“It was a brand new experience for a lot of guys, facing elimination. Definitely, in that first period we played not to lose and that was not our intention,” Konowalchuk said.
“In the first half of the game we were thinking too much,” and not skating enough, he said.
But it has been a good year for the team and its players, many of whom accomplished significant goals in their hockey careers.
“We did a lot of good things. And I’ve been proud of our guys all year.”
The players will come out of this year with a lot of playoff experience after beating the Brandon Wheat Kings four games to two, including two overtime games.
“It’s a huge experience for everybody. There’s still a lot of good things to take away from the season and from both rounds of the playoffs,” the head coach added.
This season, Red Deer finished third in the Eastern Conference, second in the Central Division with a 45-19-2-2 record.
Arshdeep Bains, with 112 points led the league, followed by linemate Ben King with 105 points.
The Oil Kings, who swept the Lethbridge in the first round, will now play the Winnipeg ICE or Moose Jaw Warriors. The ICE lead that series 3-1.
On Wednesday night, the Oil Kings came out hard from the opening faceoff and never let up.
Edmonton came at the Rebels in waves and controlled the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone peppering Ungar from all angles. The Rebels goaltender made several highlight-reel saves to keep the game scoreless.
The Oil Kings finally broke through at 15:51 when former Rebel Jaxsen Wiebe fed forward Jalen Luypen in the slot. Ungar got a piece of the puck but it trickled in.
By the time they went to the dressing room after the first period the Oil Kings had outshot the Rebels 23-6.
Edmonton wasted no time in the second when Dylan Guenther broke in and put a wicked wrister over Ungar’s glove only eight seconds in.
Just 31 seconds later, Guenther was at it again, this time feeding Carter Souch, who fired it home from the right faceoff circle Justin Sourdif picked up the second assist.
The Rebels got on the board and got the crowd on their feet when Jhett Larson scored unassisted on a breakaway at 8:20. He scooped up the puck after an Oil King defenceman stumbled at the blue line and went in alone firing a shot over Cossa’s blocker.
The Oil Kings kept coming. With the Rebels Kai Uchacz and Kalen Lind in the box along with the Oil Kings Jake Neighbours after a scuffle, Guenther got his second of the game 11 seconds in the powerplay with a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle to head into the third period up 4-1.