The Edmonton Oil Kings square off against the Portland Winterhawks in game one of their WHL finals series tonight in Portland, OR. The Winterhawks boast one of the more electric buildings in the WHL (the Moda Center) and will most certainly look to capitalize on that home-ice advantage. On the other side of things, the Oil Kings will also look to harness that energy and take away that intimidation factor.
“Intimidation is a good word, from their point of view,” Edmonton Head Coach Derek Laxdal said. “But from our point of view, we want the energy, we want to be excited coming into this building and for some of our kids that have never played here, I think it’s going to be quite a treat for them tonight and probably to get by the first couple of shifts will be really tough for our group. There will be some butterflies but if you can’t get up for a game one in a league final in a building like this, then you have to ask the question. But I’m pretty confident our guys are ready to play tonight because our leadership group has done a really good job of just kind of talking with the young kids and letting them know what to expect.”
Portland beat the Oil Kings in last year’s WHL finals in six games. A fast start at home was a part of the problem.
“When you look at the way the Portland Winterhawks play in this building, it’s just that they really feed off the crowd and if you look at our first game last year in this series, we came off a seven-game series. I think we got caught off guard in that first period, we got outshot 16-6. They play to their advantage. They’re a great home team and obviously, you’ve got to be prepared. We’ve put a lot of focus this week on preparing for that first shift, that first period, that first game. If you watched our players over the last three days, you could see a lot of focus on their part and we feel pretty confident they’re ready to have a great start.”