Edmonton comes into the 2023-24 WHL campaign after an abysmal 2022-23 season, where they finished with a league-worst 24 points (10-54-4) and were last place in almost every single team metric. This, however, is expected in Junior hockey as the ebbs and flows of going all in to win a championship usually leaves the future in absolute shambles.
Edmonton started the season with a home-and-home series against the Red Deer Rebels, an all too common occurrence lately. Red Deer took every single game in the nine-game series last year, although basically everybody beat the Oil Kings handily.
Game one would go to Edmonton as the Oil Kings would win 4-2 in Red Deer on Friday, Kian Bell would get the game-winning goal, his first in the WHL. Kolby Hay was absolutely brilliant turning aside 36 of the 38 shots he faced.
Red Deer would get even during the Oil Kings home opener on Saturday, a game the Oil Kings lead 3-2 going into the third. Growing pains of a young team as the Rebels would tie the game up with 6 minutes left. Followed by a Kai Uchacz game-winning goal with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game. Logan Cunningham was in the cage for Edmonton, playing very well allowing 4 goals on 36 shots.
Newcomers Aidan Litke (2-1-3) and Marc Lajoie (1-1-2) excelled this weekend, providing exactly what the Oil Kings needed to be a competitive team night in, and night out. Parker Alcos in his official rookie season, got off to a great start as well with 3 assists in the two games. Kolby Hay played fantastic in the game Friday as he will be tasked with starting a lot of games for this Oil Kings team, it was important for Hay to get off to a good start after a rough previous season, albeit he didn’t get much help from his teammates last year.
Edmonton’s powerplay starts off the season going one for eight. While it is very early in the season and they are missing key pieces to their powerplay (Port, Hodnett, Nash) it looked rough. Not many good chances, and struggled to control the zone.
They should be 2-0.
Edmonton played well enough to win both games this weekend, grabbing the first one on the road. They held a 3-2 lead going into the third period of the home opener. A team that wants to get back into playoff competition, needs to learn how to win those games. Sloppy play, not marking their man in the defensive zone, led to back-door chances for the Rebels. Edmonton is a team that will likely be fighting to the end of the season to make the playoffs, every point matters, especially in divisional matchups, and Edmonton at the very least should have got a point on Saturday, if not both.
It’s a long season and the Oil Kings will learn how to shut down those games and secure the points.
The Oil Kings are back in action on Friday when they play host to the Lethbridge Hurricanes at 7:00 P.M.