The Edmonton Oil Kings host the Portland Winterhawks with the opportunity to close out the WHL final with a win on home ice. The prospects of winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup at home on Sunday afternoon would normally have teams pressing and making mistakes. However, the Oil Kings have the core leadership group that can keep the team in check in a huge game.
“These kids know exactly what they’re playing for,” head coach Derek Laxdal said. “You really don’t want to touch on it because they know exactly what’s going on and they can only go two ways. They can play a great game and get a win or we’re going back (to Portland) for game seven. That’s just the way it is. But I think our kids have faced enough adversity in this series where they know exactly what the prize at the end of the line is. They’re well prepared, they were energized (Saturday) on the bus, they’re focused and I know they’re excited to play in front of a big crowd here tomorrow night.”
“I just think the character in our dressing room will do that,” Henrik Samuelsson added. “We have a lot of character guys in our room that have been here and even guys that haven’t been here that know what it takes to win and I think we’ll be fine that way.”
One of those leaders is, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, Griffin Reinhart.
“His leadership and his play on the ice is outstanding,” Laxdal said. “Just his shutdown presence, he scored a big goal for us last night and he had a big play, a big turnover on Samuelsson’s goal. He’s been a big part offensively and defensively for our hockey club. We actually moved him up onto the first unit of our power play just because of his experience and his poise. He’s really come into his own here. I know he’s excited to play in the championship final here and he’s obviously doing a great job of leading this group of players.”
Even with all that leadership some of the players may find themselves gripping their sticks a little tighter and playing tired after a restless night sleep.
“I struggled to get some sleep last night,” Curtis Lazar said. “Maybe I am fighting a cold. But I think just the butterflies for getting on the ice tomorrow is also part of it.”