Oil Kings wary of letdown
Edmonton can wrap up WHL title in Game 6
By Chris O'Leary, edmontonjournal.com
May 12, 2012 7:38 AM
0IL KINGS at WINTERHAWKS 7 p.m., Best of seven WHL championship Edmonton leads series 3-2
Media: Team 1260, Shaw TV
Coming off the biggest emotional high of their season to this point, the Edmonton Oil Kings are mindful of a drop off.
Edmonton captain Mark Pysyk's game-winning point shot with under a minute to play on Thursday has the Oil Kings a win away from a Western Hockey League title.
The Oil Kings lead the Portland Winterhawks 3-2 and can wrap up the series on Saturday at the Rose Garden.
Considering the emotional roller-coaster the team has been riding - Edmonton trailed 2-1 in the series and stormed in back front with an overtime win in Game 4 and Pysyk's late heroics in Game 5 - a letdown wouldn't be a surprise in Game 6. It caught up to Team Russia in the world junior championship this year, when they topped Canada in the semifinal, then lost to Sweden in the gold-medal game.
Pysyk and his teammates are confident they won't fall victim to that, though.
"I don't think so," he said. "I think we'll still play with that same urgency and I think everyone knows what's at stake in that room.
"I don't think there'll be any letdown (Saturday) night. I think both teams will come out very hard and it's going to be a good game."
Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal said his team has gone all season without showing signs of letting down early.
"Our kids are pretty focused. Even after a loss, we don't get too down and we kind of have that even keel," he said.
"These kids know what's at stake coming into this series and obviously, the closer you get toward your ultimate goal, there's going to be a little pressure on you; there's pressure on both hockey clubs.
"We're going into a Game 6 and we're going into a hostile environment and we know that Portland's got a great hockey club. We have to come out and play our A game."
Edmonton forward Jordan Peddle, who had two goals in Game 5, said the issue has been addressed in the room. As a 21-year-old with the clock ticking on his junior career, Peddle knows there isn't room for a let-up with a championship looming.
"These are the biggest games I've ever played in my career and it's really exciting to be a part of it," he said.
As the Oil Kings have shaken off their uncharacteristic play from Game 2 and 3 losses, Portland's top line of Sven Baertschi, Marcel Noebels and Ty Rattie have capitalized in third periods, while threatening to explode for a string of goals on any given shift. They'll lead the attack on Saturday night, as the Winterhawks fight for their season.
"They're an outstanding line," Laxdal said of the trio. "They're so good down low, they're so good in transition and they just have that awareness. They throw blind pucks from below the goal-line and Baertschi seems to find them in that little soft area coming off of the boards.
"Those three kids are going to play in the National Hockey League, so we know they're going to get something, we just want to limit it. Obviously, we'd like to limit it to zero (points) and have a better chance of winning the game."
"They're a very strong team over there," Oil Kings forward Michael St. Croix said. "Lots of firepower, they play their systems well. There hasn't been anything given to us, there hasn't been anything easy in this series. It's going to be a very tough game, but one we're very much looking forward to."
St. Croix said the Oil Kings know what they have to do on Saturday in front of what promises to be Portland's best crowd of the season.
"I think going into (Game 6) there's so much on the line and everyone in the room wants it so badly," he said. "We'll be pushing hard. Those first 10 minutes are going to be huge for us. I'm positive we're going to be ready to play."
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