So close they can almost reach out and touch it.
The Edmonton Oil Kings (36-18-4-4) scored twice in the second period and added an empty net insurance marker to skate to a 4-2 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers (31-25-3-2) in front of 6,843 fans at Rogers Place on Friday night.
Edmonton’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff berth is now down to two points. The Tigers – who currently hold the final Wild Card spot – could finish as high as 38 wins and 81 points. Even if the Tigers ran the table and won their seven remaining games, the Oil Kings would clinch a playoff berth with a win tomorrow night vs. the Brandon Wheat Kings, which would give them 82 points.
The Oil Kings maintained their two-point lead in the Central Division (80 points, 62 GP) after the Lethbridge Hurricanes (78 points, 62 GP) were also victorious on Friday, skating to a 5-0 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors.
It was the fifth straight win for the Oil Kings, who have earned at least a point in 16 of their last 20 games played (15-4-0-1).
Edmonton now boasts two 30-goal scorers on the campaign as Vince Loschiavo earned his 30th of the season, which also proved to be the game winner. The other 30-goal man, Trey Fix-Wolansky, added two more goals to his season totals tonight – his 32nd and 33rd – to help propel the Oil Kings to victory.
It marked the first time in his WHL career that Loschiavo reached the 30-goal mark, coming close in 2016-17 when he tallied 29 as a member of the Kootenay ICE.
Dylan Myskiw (24-11-2-3) was once again steady in the crease for the Oil Kings, turning aside 31 of 33 shots he faced for his 24th win of the season.
Mads Sogaard (15-8-2-2) suffered the loss, allowing three goals on 44 Oil Kings shots.
Friday also marked the 100th career regular season WHL game for Carter Souch, and the 200th career regular season WHL game for Fix-Wolansky.
Matthew Robertson opened the game’s scoring with a fortuitous bounce, as his initial shot repelled off the boards then hit the back of Sogaard’s left pad and into the net at 8:08 of the first period.
It was the only goal of the first 20 minutes, which saw Edmonton outshoot Medicine Hat by a 14-5 margin.
Midway through the second period the Tigers tied the game, 1-1 as Ryan Chyzowski tallied his 21st of the season – on the power play – at 9:38.
But the Oil Kings answered quickly and regained the lead under three minutes later on Fix-Wolansky’s first of the night and 32nd of the season, from Wyatt McLeod and David Kope, to make it a 2-1 game at 12:05.
Loschiavo joined the 30-goal club just 1:17 later, assisted by Souch and Ethan Cap.
Through two periods the Oil Kings were outshooting the Tigers, 29-20.
Medicine Hat again crept to within one, 3-2, at 7:27 of the third but Fix-Wolansky’s empty netter, assisted by Jake Neighbours, solidified the 4-2 final at 19:51.
Medicine Hat was 1-for-3 on the power play, while Edmonton finished the game going 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
Wyatt McLeod, Conner McDonald and Matthew Robertson each wore an “A” and skated as alternate captains to Trey Fix-Wolansky.
The Oil Kings are back in action tomorrow night, Saturday, March 2 when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings at 7:00 PM MT with a chance to clinch a berth in the 2019 WHL Playoffs.
Great seats are still available for all Edmonton Oil Kings home games during the 2018-19 season starting at just $20. Visit OilKings.ca for more information or to purchase.