Late game heroics allowed the Oil Kings to skate away with a 3-2 overtime win, defeating their provincial rivals to take a 1-0 series lead.
Jake Neighbours scored the game tying goal with only 13.3 seconds left in regulation. His first WHL playoff goal was the result of some hard work by Vince Loschiavo at the hashmarks, putting the puck to Neighbours and his shot beat Jack McNaughton.
“For the tying goal Vinny (Vince Loschiavo) just drove the net and the puck ended up on my stick. I just put a good shot on net.” Neighbours told OilKings.ca
Neighbours was also the overtime hero, scoring 3:20 into sudden death time. Off a faceoff to the right of McNaughton, the puck beat the surprised netminder and clanged off the post. Neighbours hustled to the front of the net and banged the puck to the back of the net to the delight of the 6,495 fans at Rogers place.
“Bit of a lucky one but we will take it,” Neighbours on his overtime game-winner.
It was the Hitmen though that scored the opening goal, at exactly the midway point of the game.
A three-on-one rush down the ice saw Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic gain the zone and pass the puck with an Oil King defender pestering him. The pass was to the trailing Kaden Elder and he made no mistake beating Dylan Myskiw. The goal was Elder’s second of the playoffs, Kastelic’s assist was his eighth point in his sixth game.
An early third period power play saw the Hitmen pull further away from the Oil Kings. A shot from the side boards hit some bodies in front of Myskiw and found it’s way behind him. Luke Coleman was credited with his fourth goal of the playoffs and it looked as though the Hitmen might have a little bit of that Game 7 magic left over from their series with the Hurricanes.
It was not to be though as Edmonton got themselves on the board on a long shot from the point. Parker Gavlas scored his first goal of the playoffs when the puck was slowly passed to the point from the side of the net by Andrei Pavlenko. Gavlas one-timed the pass and it in under the cross bar to bring the Oil Kings to within a goal.
“None of us were really good in the second period,” said Head Coach Brad Lauer following the game. “They elevated their game and we got watching a little bit. I think as the game went along, and obviously toward the end of the third and overtime he (Neighbours) did a really great job, beat his defenseman off the faceoff and the rebound was there and he put it away.”
“We learned from our losses, I think the first round really helped us out. Mature and grow as a team. I think that is what gave us the win here in the first game. We kept working, we went right down to the end in the third and found a way to win it in overtime.”
Cruisin the QE2… The three stars of the night were Neighbours, McNaughton and Gavlas. Mark Kastelic was 15-of-20 in the face off dot for the Hitmen while Scott Atkinson was 10-of-14 for the Oil Kings. Final shots were 34-22 in favour of the Oil Kings, Andrew Fyten lead the way with 5 shots, Cael Zimmerman had 4 for the Hitmen. Calgary was 1-for-4 on the power play, Edmonton was 0-for-3. Game 2 of the series is on Sunday at 5Pm local time in Edmonton.