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THE INSIDER: Playing Portland and Playoff Push

The Insider is a weekly look at what’s going on with the Oil Kings by TSN 1260’s Corey Graham. This week, Corey talks about playing Portland and the Playoff push.

Wednesday marked the lone game on the schedule between the Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks. Even though it almost two seasons removed from their last WHL Championship battle in the spring of 2014 it was clear that the rivalry is alive and well. Edmonton scored a 5-1 victory in what was a fast paced physical hockey game.

Portland Winterhawks:

  • Memories flood back every time I see the Oil Kings and Winterhawks square off. Sure the names are different but the game was still wide open, attack based hockey. It wasn’t long ago that these teams faced off three straight times for the WHL Championship providing epic games and leaving memories that last a lifetime.
  • One pivotal moment I will never forget was in 2014’s Championship series. The Winterhawks won both game one and two in Portland and opened game three at Rexall place quickly, scoring twice in the first three and half minutes. Cue the dramatic comeback by the Oil Kings as Henrik Samuelsson cut the lead in half with a power play goal in the second period and Luke Bertolucci fought off Mathew Dumba to score the equalizer on a breakaway. Bertolucci chased down a Mads Eller pass at centre and has shoved to his knees by Dumba just as the defenceman pivoted to chase him down. Somehow he was able to maintain puck possession and get back to his feet now a few strides clear after Dumba’s shove propelled him forward. He broke in on Corbin Boes and finished it off with a beautiful deke to tie the game and swing the momentum back into Edmonton’s favour.
  • “It’s honestly like a dream,” the now twenty year Bertolucci recollected before Wednesday’s game. “You look back on it, you remember it but it’s in the past, just a memory. You enjoy it but you’re looking for more of those goals in the future.”
  • Momentum can be a funny thing, especially in the playoffs with swings up and down. When I asked Bertolucci to describe how Edmonton was able to rally that night he was at a loss for words, “Honestly, I don’t know how to explain it. We had absolutely nothing going for us at all. They cleaned us up in Portland so when we came back here we knew we needed to change our mentality. Things really took a turn (our way) so that was nice.”

Milestones:

  • When Colton Kehler banged home a rebound in the second period last night, Dysin Mayo registered the 101st assist of his WHL career. Mayo moved past former captain Mark Pysyk into sole possession of top spot on the Oil Kings all time leader board for assists by a defenceman. Mayo’s 101st helper came in career game number 238; Pysyk tallied 100 in 243 career games.
  • Mayo has a chance to rewrite the record book for defencemen and put his name on top of every offensive category in the coming games. His 127 career points are just two shy of Cody Corbett’s record of 129. He has scored 26 career goals which is third all time behind Corbett and Griffin Reinhart who share the team lead at 30.

Playoff race:

  • It’s officially crunch time in the race to the 2016 WHL playoffs. The two points gained in the game against Portland put the Oil Kings nine points clear of both Saskatoon and Swift Current for the final wildcard position in the Eastern Conference.
  • Ultimately the team’s goal is to track down Regina who is now eight points ahead of Edmonton after winning in a shoot out 9-8 in Lethbridge on Wednesday. The Pats are red-hot winning seven straight including downing the Oil Kings 3-1 in Regina on Sunday.
  • Edmonton has 11 games left heading into this weekend’s action in Kootenay and Lethbridge.
  • Here is a breakdown of the chase and remaining schedules in the wildcard race. I will update this weekly here on the Insider.

Rank

Team

GP

Record

Pts

Games Remaining

7

Regina

60

30-23-3-4

67

vs PA, @ SAS, vs RD, vs KTN, vs SC, vs BDN,

@ SC, vs MJ, @ MJ, vs SAS, vs SC, @ BDN

8

Edmonton

61

28-26-6-1

59

@KTN, @ LET, vs VIC, vs MH, vs SAS, vs CAL

@ CAL, @ LET, @ KTY, vs RD, @ RD

————————————————————————————————————

9

Saskatoon

60

23-33-4-0

50

vs REG, vs MJ, @ BDN, vs LET, vs KTN, @ EDM

@ CAL, vs BDN, @ BDN, @ REG, @ PA, vs PA

10

Swift Current

60

21-31-5-3

50

vs MH, vs CAL, vs RD, @ REG, @ MH, vs MJ

vs REG, vs PA, @ PA, @ BDN, @ REG, @ MJ

11

Medicine Hat

61

22-34-3-2

49

@ SC, vs BDN, vs KTN, @ EDM, vs SC, vs PA

vs KTN, @ KTN, @ CAL, @ LET, vs LET

 Corey Graham has been the play-by-play broadcaster for the Oil Kings since 2010-11 and has broadcast three WHL championship series and two Memorial Cups. His blog, The Insider, will appear every Thursday at noon on oilkings.ca. You can catch every Oil Kings game home and away with Corey on TSN 1260.

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