The Oil Kings dropped their tournament-opening game against the Shawinigan Cataractes despite coming in as the favorites to win it all. They needed to get into the win column against the host Saint John Sea Dogs and they managed to accomplish just that despite a wild first period that saw them down 3-2 through the first 10 minutes of the game.
A fortunate delay of game call that saw Saint John head to the penalty box on a puck that may have gone off the glass on its way out of play allowed the Oil Kings an opportunity with the man advantage. Edmonton made no mistake, capitalizing with just a few seconds left in the power play.
The score stayed tied at three through the third period, making the Memorial Cup’s new 3-on-3 overtime necessary. With the new format in play, a hero was born as Jaxsen Wiebe scored off the rush to end the game on his hat trick goal. Edmonton came away victorious and collected their much-needed first win, even if the overtime win isn’t worth as much in the standings.
First Star: RW Jaxsen Wiebe, Edmonton Oil Kings
The unlikeliest of heroes, Jaxsen Wiebe scored a total of 12 goals through 64 games in the WHL when you combine his regular season and playoffs, but it was a hat trick on this night that powered the Oil Kings to victory. Scoring a diverse trio of goals, Wiebe was rewarded for consistently playing hard and playing the right way throughout this game.
The 20-year-old forward got Edmonton on the board by crashing the net and banging in a loose puck on his backhand as chaos ensued. His second goal came in the second period to tie the game at three. After Carter Souch made a magnificent dash in for a chance on goal, the puck went off the post and popped into the air with Wiebe right there to catch it, put it down onto his stick, and just shovel it home from a few feet out.
It was his overtime-winning goal that was the best of the three though. Wiebe built up speed through the neutral zone with the extra space that three-on-three overtime provides. Entering the offensive zone, he is left to the outside and bobbles the puck a bit. Quickly recollecting the puck, Wiebe just fired the puck from the half wall and beat the Saint John netminder on a bit of a surprise shot from a weird angle. Wiebe very likely may have played the best game of his junior hockey career in one of the most pivotal games of his career.
Second Star: LW Carter Souch, Edmonton Oil Kings
Souch was a man on a mission at times in this game. His ability to flash speed and skill were on full display and he was unafraid to mix it up whenever things got a bit shady after the whistle. Souch has an innate ability when it comes to spacing in the offensive zone and his ability to finish from high-danger or make a quick decisive pass into high-danger areas of the ice is what makes him such a lethal offensive player for the WHL champions.
Souch finished the game with a goal and two assists, factoring in on all of the Oil Kings’ regulation goals. Scoring on a two-on-one, Souch pulled away from the defender and went streaking up the middle of the ice, opening up for a beautiful pass from Josh Williams. Souch made no mistake, burying the puck on a nice shot from about ten feet out. His speed and hustle on the play got him that opportunity, just minutes after he set up the game’s opening goal.
The shining moment for Souch may have been his second assist of the night. Weaving through traffic and attacking the slot in the offensive zone on the powerplay, Souch dangled three defenders and although he lost the puck for a half-second, he jumped in behind the Sea Dogs blueliner to recover it and ring the shot off the post. Wiebe caught the puck that was sent into the air off the post and buried it to tie the game. None of that happens if not for Souch’s hustle and determination, which was on full display in the Oil Kings’ overtime win.
Third Star: C Josh Lawrence, Saint John Sea Dogs
Lawrence was active all night long, getting into the offensive zone and creating chances all night long. He was an absolute stud in the faceoff dot, going 20 for 26 while collecting a goal and an assist in the game to help Saint John take the lead after being down two goals to start the game. Saint John’s did an excellent job of dictating play all night and Lawrence did more than his fair share of the work. The only player in the game that ended the contest with more shots (six) than on goal was Will Dufour, junior hockey’s best goal scorer this year, who added a goal of his own later on. Lawrence was all over the ice tonight, leading the way with a goal and an assist.
Lawrence was in on both of Saint John’s first two goals to help tie the game up in the first seven minutes. His assist was a thing of beauty as he was cutting towards the net and redirected a backdoor slap pass to the front of the net for Raivis Kristians Ansons to tap it in. Edmonton netminder Sebastian Cossa was sliding towards Lawrence and had no chance at being able to stop up and make the save going the other way.
Scoring the tying goal just a couple of minutes later, the 20-year-old center made a great move to his backhand on a puck just kept in the offensive zone. Going backhand to forehand and elevating the shot from in tight, the puck just squeaked through Cossa and knocked in by a sprawling Oil King’s defender. Not every goal is going to be a highlight reel goal but the play made up to the puck going in was quite nice from Lawrence.