Stone, Pysyk face off
WHL rivals became close friends during world junior tourney
By Evan Daum, Freelance
January 28, 2012
Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit kicks a rebound away from Brandon Wheat Kings forward Mark Stone during first-period Western Hockey League action at Rexall Place on Friday.
Photograph by: Greg Southam, The Journal, Freelance
For Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Mark Pysyk and Brandon Wheat Kings forward Mark Stone, Friday night's Western Hockey League matchup was a reunion of sorts at Rexall Place, with the Team Canada teammates returning to the ice where their world junior tournament began, except this time on opposite sides.
While the game between the former teammates didn't provide much in the way of resistance from Stone's Wheat Kings, the conference-leading Oil Kings' 6-2 win over the eighth place Wheat Kings did provide a unique experience for the two.
Like so many players before them who struck up friendships while wearing the Maple Leaf, Pysyk and Stone came to form a bond during the three-plus weeks spent together on Canada's road to a bronze medal.
"I think just relaxed attitudes, we like to have fun and laugh about the same sort of stuff. He and I got on right from the get-go and just sort of hit it off," Pysyk said of the friendship.
Despite both players coming from the WHL, the pair weren't overly familiar with each other heading into the world juniors. The two, however, did have a connection through former player and current Oil Kings assistant coach Jesse Pearson, who like Stone, hails from Winnipeg.
"Jesse Pearson with the Oil Kings, him and I grew up together for pretty much our whole lives and Mark was good friends with him, so I knew that we would get along," Stone said. "Right from Day 1 he and I were buddies and we really jelled together."
Even though Friday night's game was the first time the two have met face-to-face since rejoining their respective junior teams, they've kept in touch over the last three weeks.
"We text probably a couple times a day, just here and there to see how each other's doing, talk about our teams," Pysyk said.
"I talk to him quite a bit and those friendships, they last. I just want to keep in touch with him for a long time and a number of years. We shared a lot of experiences in that tournament and had a lot of fun together," Stone said.
Edmonton, fresh off a 5-4 overtime loss Wednesday against the Tri-City Americans, is enjoying its best sea-son in franchise history and sits atop the WHL's Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings are a full 19 points back of the Oil Kings and only four points up on the Red Deer Rebels for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
On a night that saw the Oil Kings take a 5-1 lead into the third period thanks to a four-goal second, it was Michael St. Croix who stole the spotlight.
With the score knotted at 1-1 early in the second, St. Croix broke the deadlock with his 32nd goal of the season only 1: 10 after Wheat Kings' Brenden Walker evened the score with power-play goal 1: 04 into the second.
After the Oil Kings' Curtis Lazar made it 3-1, St. Croix once again took centre stage.
In a year that's been full of firsts for the franchise, St. Croix etched his name in Oil Kings history on the team's fourth goal of the night when he setup Rhett Rachinski 12: 25 into the second.
With the assist, St. Croix took sole possession of the franchise single-season point record with his 79th of the season, surpassing teammate Dylan Wruck's 78 point campaign in 2010-11.
Kristians Pelss and Henrik Samuellson, who opened the scoring for Edmonton in the first period, capped off the scoring for the home side in a one-sided affair that saw the Oil Kings outshoot the Wheat Kings 44-27. It was a routine night for Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who earned his 28 victory of the season.
The Oil Kings are back in action Saturday night when they host the Vancouver Giants, who will cap off their three-game Alberta road swing after playing in Calgary Fri-day night.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal