Pelss a high-flying Oil King
Overcomes jet lag, lost luggage to lead team
By Chris O’Leary, Special to The Journal, edmontonjournal.com
December 28, 2010
Edmonton Oil Kings' Kristians Pelss #26 chases down Swift Current Broncs' Justin Dowling #10 during second period action in Edmonton, Alberta, on October 9, 2010.
Photograph by: Jason Franson, file photo, edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON — Kristians Pelss was a big part of the Edmonton Oil Kings’ 3-2 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Monday night.
The 18-year-old winger had every reason not to be, though.
Pelss returned from his native Latvia at 1 a.m. Monday morning on the heels of winning the world under-20 championship on Dec. 19 in Belarus. Jet lag couldn’t stop him from playing, but an issue with lost luggage almost did.
“We got a pre-game skate (on Monday) and I skated without my equipment because it was lost in Toronto,” Pelss said. “The equipment came just before the game. (It was) a little tough, but it’s all right.”
Pelss skated in sweats earlier in the day and Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal liked what he saw in his young forward.
“I had to pick up Pelssy at 1:15 and his bag wasn’t even there. We got out of there at 2:15,” Laxdal recalled. “But give Pelss some credit. He got up (Monday) morning and skated in sweats and he had a little jump so we decided to play him. I thought he was our best player.
“I thought he played well and played hard and he had a lot of jump in his game. I thought he made a great play on that third goal.”
The third goal, which was the eventual game-winner, was a beauty that came from a Pelss hustle play. After losing his stick near the Oil Kings’ bench, Pelss picked it up and found a pass from Mark Pysyk waiting for him. The pass was like an instant go-button for Pelss, who burst across the blue-line from a standstill, leaving a Lethbridge defenceman behind him.
He cut in along the right wing and slid a perfect pass in front to a streaking Jordan Hickmott, who potted his 22nd goal of the season.
Michael St. Croix added a goal and an assist for the Oil Kings (17-16-0-2), pushing his team-leading season total to 48 points. Dylan Wruck also scored for the Oil Kings, while netminder Jon Groenheyde turned aside 12 shots.
While the Oil Kings surpassed their win total from last season in Monday’s win, Laxdal said he wasn’t happy with the team’s overall play.
“I didn’t think we did a lot of great things,” he said. “I thought we were just OK in a lot of areas.
“Our D-zone coverage was very average at best. I thought we played decent offensively. We had some good cycles, we had some good opportunities to score. I thought the transition from offence to defence was lacking.
“That’ll come as we play more hockey games, though.”
Austin Fyten and Cam Braes scored for Lethbridge (12-16-2-5). Brandon Anderson made 30 saves in net for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes will get a chance at redemption on Wednesday night back in their own barn, when the Oil Kings play at the ENMAX Centre.
The Oil Kings will be back at Rexall Place at 6 p.m. Friday against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
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