Throughout any given season there are always high points and low points for every hockey team, no matter how talented they are. During the middle of November, the Oil Kings certainly went through a bit of a tough stretch. The team recently dropped three consecutive games and is currently on a long road trip through BC. Still, despite the fact that the results aren’t there, the team isn’t necessarily playing bad hockey.
The losing streak started with a 3-0 loss to the Tri-City Americans in a game where they fired nearly 50 shots towards Americans goaltender Beck Warm, but couldn’t beat him. They were also let down by their powerplay in this one. Not only did they fail to score on six attempts, they really didn’t look good in any of them.
A lacklustre powerplay has unfortunately become a regular occurrence for the Oil Kings. Over the last four games, they have scored just one time on 18 attempts. A big reason for that is the absence of Connor McDonald. The most productive defenseman in franchise history has been away from the team for almost the entire month and not having him on the ice to quarterback the powerplay has hurt.
Edmonton Oil Kings President of Hockey Operations and GM, Kirt Hill, has issued the following statement:
"Oil Kings defenceman Conner McDonald has taken a leave of absence from the team to attend to a family matter. We respectfully will not be offering any further comment."
— Edmonton Oil Kings (@EdmOilKings) November 15, 2019
The good news is that McDonald will be back at some point and that should spark their powerplay production. In the meantime, they have recalled Loeden Schauffler from the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) and he has done well.
The second loss of their skid came against the Medicine Hat Tigers. The final score ended up being 5-1 but this game was far from a blowout. The Oil Kings hammered 16 shots at Mads Sogaard in the first period alone, they just simply got beat by one of the leagues best goaltenders. They also gave up three goals in less than four minutes to start the second period. It’s not like the Oil Kings failed to show up, they just fell asleep for a few minutes and couldn’t beat Sogaard.
Their third consecutive loss was also their most gut-wrenching. After falling behind 4-0 to the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Oil Kings completed an incredible comeback. They got goals from David Kope, Dylan Guenther, Vlad Alistrov (it was a beauty and I’ve attached the clip below), and finally, it was Loeden Schauffler who tied the game up with his first career WHL goal.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) November 18, 2019
Overtime solved nothing and in the shootout, it was the Wheat Kings who came out on top.
With their losing streak at three, the team hit the road for a long trip through British Columbia that would see them play five games in eight days in five different rinks.
They started in Prince George with a matchup against a Cougars team that has been struggling to win games this season. It was a great opportunity for the Oil Kings to bust out of their slump and that’s exactly what they did. Despite the fact that they trailed 2-1 halfway through this game, Edmonton fought back once again and walked out of PG with a 3-2 victory.
Dylan Guenther registered two assists in the victory and he has been playing some of the best hockey of his WHL career as of late. In the three games since he returned from playing with Team Canada at the u17 tournament, he’s racked up five points. He’s now riding a six-game point streak and has ten points in that stretch.
He had just two goals and two assists in his first ten games this season and that had some people outside the organization wondering if Guenther would live up to the hype that comes with being a first overall pick. For those who watched the team, it was easy to see that Brad Lauer and the coaching staff were easing their rookie into things. He spent a lot of time early in the season playing low in the lineup. That strategy seemed to have worked as Guenther is starting to produce on a consistent basis for the Oil Kings.
Despite losing three in a row, and losing five out of six games, the Oil Kings still sit atop the Central Division. They’re tied with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, both teams have 33 points, but the Oil Kings have played one less game. Sometimes it’s good for a team to get on the road for a while. It can be a good bonding experience for a young team. It forces them to really just focus on hockey and I think getting out of Edmonton for a while could be a good thing for this group.
They’ll look to pull ahead of the Hurricanes during the final the rest of their road trip, which continues tonight in Victoria.