The last home game of the season for the Edmonton Oil Kings and last opportunity for their 20 year olds to play in front of their home crowd came Saturday night. The Oil Kings (21-42-6-2) took on the Calgary Hitmen (24-36-9-2) in their final two games of the season in a weekend back to back. The Hitmen come into the game riding a two-game win streak against the Medicine Hat Tigers and Kootenay Ice, while the Oil Kings also enjoyed a two game win streak of their own after wins against Kootenay and Lethbridge. Edmonton elected to start 1998 goaltender Josh Dechaine, while Calgary put in Matthew Armitage.
The annual year end awards for the Oil Kings were presented before the game. The recipients of this year awards were:
Most Improved – David Kope
Scholastic – Ethan Cap
Rookie of the Year – Matthew Robertson
Unsung Hero – Tomas Soustal
Top D-Man – Conner McDonald
Community Service – Conner McDonald
Kristian Pelss Award – Colton Kehler
MVP – Trey Fix-Wolansky
Unfortunately for the Oil Kings they came out with a weak first period performance. They were suffering a 3-0 deficit after the first 20 minutes. Jakob Stukel opened the scoring with a power play goal just 7:55 into the period. Stukel walked out from below the goal line and forced the puck past Dechaine’s far pad. Dom Schmiemann would build on the lead quickly after with his first goal of the season. It came on a slap shot from the point. A late goal by Mark Kastelic would extend the lead to 3-0, as the Oil Kings get out shot 15-5 in the frame.
2001-Born Boston Bilous would start in net for the Oil Kings in the second period.
The Oil Kings came out much better in the second period, much more aggressive and controlling. Unfortunately they were unable to stay discipline in the period and suffered another goal against late. Luke Coleman got a shot off in the slot and put it short side on Bilous, extending the lead to 4-0 with less than a minute left in the period. Shots in the second were 12-9 for the Hitmen.
David Kope would get the Oil Kings on the board 4:47 into the third. The puck deflected off his skate, was reviewed for a few moments but ultimately held up.
The Hitmen would reply with three goals of their own in the third. Mark Kastelic would pounce on Riley Stotts’ rebound to regain the four goal lead. Jakob Stukel and Jake Kryski would add two more late in the period for a final score of 7-1 for the Hitmen, final shots on the game was 41-28 for the Hitmen.
-Jake Neighbours suited up in his 10th game of the season last night, played strong and his confidence continues to grow with every game. He was arguably their best forward last night and was able to create most of their offensive opportunities despite the 7-1 loss. His skill and physical tools have had no issues translating to the WHL, controlling the puck at an elite level despite being the youngest player on the ice. The future looks bright for him and the Oil Kings.
-Mark Kastelic has impressed every time I have gotten the opportunity to see him. His offensive game has really started to come around this season. His hands are starting to keep up with his feet and his control on the rush has shined – attacking the offensive zone with speed and working through traffic much better. He’s a potential pick in this year’s NHL draft.
-Jakob Stukel was quite impressive in yesterday’s game. The Vancouver Canucks 6th round pick has had an excellent 20 year old season for the Hitmen, playing on their top line and being a catalyst in terms of offensive on the rush. He’s dynamic and fearless with an explosive first three strides.
-The three stars of the game were presented to the three 20 year olds of the Oil Kings, Travis Child, Tomas Soustal, and Colton Kehler. The three have all had great careers in the WHL.
-Travis Child suited up in 107 games in his WHL career over four season he spent with the Swift Current Broncos, Brandon Wheat Kings and Edmonton Oil Kings. The Killam born goalie returned to his hometown this past off season where he wanted to spend his final season. He suffered an unfortunate injury early in the season and was side lined for the rest of the season. Travis is bound to have a great career with a CIS if he chooses to do so – a talented goalie who exemplifies what a great person is off the ice.
-Tomas Soustal won the WHL championship in 2015 with the Kelowna Rockets and was an invitee to the Dallas Stars prospect camp one year. The Czech born forward reached the 50 point plateau for the first time this season and reached the 20 goal milestone in 2015-2016. A big strong forward who knows how to put the puck in the net, his explosiveness has really improved this season and his versatility really helped the young Oil Kings team. Soustal will likely go back over to Europe after the year and play pro somewhere.
-Colton Kehler suited up in all of his WHL games with the Edmonton Oil Kings and was rewarded the captaincy this season. Kehler was arguably the team’s best captain since Griffin Reinhart as he was a leader who play with emotion and confidence. He reached 31 goals this season and 49 points. His scoring touch really came around this season and he was heavily relied on in offensive opportunities. Kehler was a thrill to watch and was a player who was easy to like and easy to respect. I am confident he will play on a CIS team next season and at some point bar the captaincy once again.
Thank you to all the 20 year olds who will be moving on after this season, it was a pleasure to watch you grow over the past two season and best of luck in your future endeavors.