Slow start doesn't deter Oil Kings
Edmonton storms back from 1-0 hole with five unanswered goals
By Chris O'Leary, Edmonton Journal
April 11, 2012
Sitting on the bench, stunned and gasping for air, Henrik Samuelsson had a choice.
The Edmonton Oil Kings forward looked at the scoreboard and saw that his team was trailing the Brandon Wheat Kings 1-0 in the second period of their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal on Tuesday night.
Brandon forward Michael Ferland had just thrown every bit of his six-foot-two, 208-pound frame into Samuelsson along the boards and flattened him. Helped off of the ice by head athletic therapist Brian Cheeseman, Samuelsson spent 10 minutes out of the game, collecting his breath and his thoughts.
The 18-year-old went back in and assisted on Travis Ewanyk's game-tying goal. He was also in on the eventual game-winner, picking up the second assist on Curtis Lazar's third period go-ahead goal in the Oil Kings' 5-1 win over Brandon.
The Oil Kings lead the series 3-0 and can close it out on Wednesday night at the Westman Centre.
"Coach (Derek Laxdal) told me to take a few deep breaths before I went out there so I didn't do anything stupid," Samuelsson said.
"I did that and I went out and I was calm and not angry anymore. It's better to score than to get penalties."
That last sentence is a simple enough statement, but it speaks volumes for Samuelsson, who missed the first two games of the Oil Kings' first round match up with the Kootenay Ice.
The six-foot-two, 195 pounder had been suspended three times by the WHL in just 28 regular-season games with the Oil Kings, after only joining the team in January.
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal was proud of Samuelsson for understanding what was important in the moment.
"It showed some great resiliency on Sammy to keep his composure," Laxdal said. "That's what junior hockey is all about and that's what's going to make him a good pro. He's got to learn to play on the edge and he has to learn how to make sure he doesn't go over the edge and he did that."
Considering it was Ferland who had hit him helped make the decision to play an easy one, Samuelsson said.
"Well it was Ferland and I didn't think I could get even with him, because he's such a tough guy," he said. "I wouldn't really want to try to fight him to get even. I'd rather get calm and just go out there and try to play my game and not worry about him."
Besides, a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs is the better revenge.
"It helps a little bit," a smiling Samuelsson said of getting the win.
Ferland assisted on what turned out to be the Wheat Kings' only goal of the night. Ryan Pulock beat Laurent Brossoit with a wrist shot at 10: 48 of the first, scoring his team's first power-play goal of the series.
Brandon played a tight game with the Oil Kings for the first period, hemming the team into the penalty box and keeping pace in shots, directing 13 on Brossoit (25 saves on the night) to the 14 that Edmonton fired at Corbin Boes (37 saves overall).
After the Samuelsson hit, the game began to shift. The Oil Kings' offence ramped up in the second period, as they outshot Brandon 19-2. Lazar's rebound goal at 14: 21 put Edmonton in front to stay.
Foster ensured Mark Pysyk's shot made it past Boes, just 46 seconds into the third period and with Ferland in the box for roughing, Mitch Moroz made it a 4-1 game at 6: 10. Legault ensured the Wheat Kings would leave the ice with no momentum, scoring his first of the playoffs at 14: 53.
Helping the Oil Kings' cause was an undisclosed injury to Brandon captain Mark Stone. The team's leading scorer this season spent the third period in the Wheat Kings' lockerroom. After Ferland took his roughing penalty in the third period, he didn't see the ice again, either.
"That had nothing to do with discipline reasons," Wheat Kings head coach Cory Clouston said. "There are other reasons for that.
"He's not - he's 100percent healthy, so when the score was where it was, we wanted to make sure that we were getting him ready as much as possible for (Wednesday) and hopefully he'll be in the lineup."
The coach was less ambiguous about Stone's status.
"We'll see how he is. He's questionable," Clouston said.
Undefeated in the playoffs and owners of an 18-game win streak overall, the Oil Kings are in the driver's seat in the series as they look for their second consecutive sweep on Wednesday.
"They're always going to come out hard and they're not going to give us anything," Samuelsson said of the Wheat Kings. "We've got to go out and give it our best. Hopefully we close out the series."
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