The Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Winnipeg ICE 7-1 on Friday night in ICE District to win the series 4-1 and advance to the WHL Finals for the first time since the 2013-14 season, a season in which they won the Memorial Cup.
The 2021-22 Oil Kings playoff run is four seasons in the making. Not including this season, this Oil Kings core has a combined 104-32-10 record while winning the Central Division three times. However, they only got to test out their true potential in the playoffs once, losing to the Prince Albert Raiders in the Eastern Conference Final in 2018-2019.
What happened in the other two seasons? The playoffs were unfortunately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For this core group of Oil Kings, they were ripped of the chance to compete for the Memorial Cup for two seasons straight, despite being, debatably, the best team in the entire CHL both seasons. This year will truly make or break their junior careers as the core will be aging out of the CHL after this season. Jake Neighbours will be off to the St. Louis Blues organization and Dylan Guenther will be joining the Arizona Coyotes. That’s just to name two. Countless others will likely not be with the Oil Kings during the 2022-23 season.
As a long-time season seat holder turned media member for the Oil Kings. I was able to see firsthand, the impact of the last two seasons “not counting” for the Oil Kings and how badly it affected the psyche of the locker room.
This Edmonton Oil Kings core, after waiting for the better part of four years, is one step away from contending for the ultimate prize in Canadian Junior Hockey. While they will have to wait till early next week for the opportunity to book their ticket to Saint John. One can assume that the past couple of years when they weren’t able to compete for the Memorial Cup through no fault of their own has made this group battle-tested and hyperfocused on the goal at hand.
Eliminating the Winnipeg ICE was an important step on the way to their Memorial Cup goal, with debatably the toughest competition in the rear mirror. Edmonton will wait for the Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds series to end to see who they will face in the WHL Final, a series where the Oil Kings will undoubtedly be the favorites.