The Edmonton Oil Kings ended the 2016-17 season much the same way they started it; with some dramatic flair and a pair of wins over the Red Deer Rebels.
Thanks to a couple of 20-year-olds in their final swan song, Riley Stadel and Graham Millar connected with 1:35 left in overtime to send the sold-out crowd of 18,102 into a frenzy.
In order to even reach extra time the Oil Kings had to score twice in the final 90 seconds with goaltender Patrick Dea on the bench.
Trey Fix-Wolanksy tucked home his 24th while on the power play and then exactly 30 seconds later Colton Kehler tied it firing a rebound in off the post past Riley Lamb setting up the drama for OT.
“That was the unscripted version of the third period,” laughed Oil Kings Head Coach Steve Hamilton.
“That wasn’t exactly how we talked about playing it, but that was a microcosm of the season because we never quite planned that and it didn’t look pretty and the odds didn’t stack up in our favour, but we just sort of stuck to it. I thought it was just such a fitting end for one of our 20-year-olds to get the game-winner to close out the season as he closes out his career. It was fitting. There were contributions throughout the night from every age group. I think that speaks to what we went through this year.”
The Oil Kings scored the only goal in the opening frame and it was a product of hard work. Davis Koch and Jesse Roach were fore-checking heavily and caused a turnover in the Red Deer end resulting on a 2-on-0 with Koch and Cap. Koch passed it over at the last moment to Cap, who had the gun loaded and pulled the trigger snapping home his first ever WHL goal.
In the second period, Gruninger gave the home team a 2-0 lead when the speedster turned on the after-burners flying past Rebels defenceman Dawson Barteaux and going five-hole on Riley Lamb in a highlight reel goal.
Just over a minute later Evan Polei got the Rebels on the board when he ripped in a laser of a shot off the post and in behind Dea.
They then tied it up with 42 seconds left in the middle period thanks to a powerplay goal from Brandon Hagel. Lane Zablocki made a nice pass to Hagel, who was parked on the door step and tipped it in.
The Rebels looked to have all but won it later in the third when Hagel and Austin Glover scored three minutes apart to take a 4-2 lead, but it wasn’t meant to be for them as Edmonton showed their resiliency and pulled out the heroics late sending veterans Tyler Robertson, Riley Stadel and Graham Millar home on a high note from their career in the WHL.
“It was pretty emotional for sure,” said Robertson.
“The start we had with the jerseys and awards, the Oil Kings did such a great job and it really made me feel appreciated in this organization, especially with how well they treat their players.”
Hamilton explained how invaluable Robertson has been for his club.
“Tyler has always been an amazing, unsung guy in our lineup, who just goes about his business. He is well-liked in the room. He goes about his business in an unheralded way, but he is an important guy. I think he has really done a good job over his career in being flexible and being able to roll with what was needed from him.
The Oil Kings will finish the 2016-17 season with a record of 23-43-5-1. Thanks to the amazing fans here in Edmonton and surrounding areas, Rogers Place had three sell-outs this season including tonight!