LONDON, ON - One day after a dramatic triple-overtime win over Val d'Or in the Memorial Cup Semi-Final -- the longest game in Memorial Cup and Oil Kings history -- Edmonton was using Saturday to recharge and refuel for what will undoubtedly be an emotional match-up on Sunday against the Guelph Storm.
"It's not a seven-game series, it's one game. Anything can happen," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal, pointing out that once again the odds are stacked against the Edmonton squad if you believe what those outside of the team have to say.
"Obviously, Guelph is the favourite in the game if you read all the articles but at the end of the day, our team, we have a great hockey club. They're resilient, they're confident, there's a lot of character in that dressing room. They've won a championship in the Western Hockey League. They've battled. We weren't even supposed to be there and now we're in the Memorial Cup Final.
"We're underdogs. There's no pressure on us. Our kids are just going to go out and play and do what we do best."
Defenceman Cody Corbett agreed with his coach's thoughts.
"We've just got to go out and play," he said, adding that this is the pinnacle in junior hockey. "There's no comparison to a Memorial Cup Final. You're not going to find a bigger stage or a bigger game than that. I think the guys will step up to the occasion and we'll find a way."
Corbett does expect both teams to come at it with their best effort of the season and foresees an outstanding Final as a result.
"Both teams are going to come in with adrenalin through the roof, there's no doubt about that. We've just got to find a way to keep the adrenalin going throughout the game."
HOW TO CONTAIN GUELPH
Coach Laxdal spoke with the media about how to best handle a team like Guelph with their high-octane offence.
"It's puck management. You've got to stay out of the penalty box, first of all, and you've got to put pucks in areas that you can forecheck and you let them ramp up their offence. They've got nine deep forwards that can score, a good back-end and Nichols was outstanding (in goal) against London the other night.
"We really have to play one of our best games of the season. And I can tell you one thing, it's the last game of the season so why not make it the best?"
In their round robin meeting, the Oil Kings had a 2-1 lead in the second period before an unfortunate bounce on a Mads Eller clearing attempt ended up in the back of the net. From there, Guelph rolled to a 5-2 win.
"We did a lot of good things in that game. We did a lot of five-on-five play and hemmed them in a little bit, but you know you give them the opportunity and bang they can score. You saw that against London. The game was close at 2-1 then they got that goal off the back boards. Then they scored to make it 4-2 then in the third period they just opened it right up," Laxdal continued.
"You really have to play a solid 60 minutes because they can score at any time. For us, it's going to come down to the blueline game, 200-foot game, we have to get pucks deep, throw pucks to the net and keep it simple. A lot of their offence is built off that dump off the glass and skate onto it because they have such great forwards."
THE MORNING AFTER
Curtis Lazar spoke on Saturday about his emotions the day after scoring the biggest goal of his career.
"It was about time to get one," Lazar chuckled. "Especially in the game but (also) in my career."
The order of the day for Lazar and his teammates is to get some rest.
"I'm a little dehydrated but you get some fluid and I got a lot of pizza (after the game last night). It's a good day off today. Some rest and recovery and we're ready to get after it tomorrow."
Lazar reflected more on the goal and what it meant looking back at that great moment.
"It was almost a big sense of relief. That's the beauty of playing junior hockey and playing this long. You fight so hard and when you get past the obstacles like last night in triple overtime, you can just breathe for one and exhale. It was a big team effort for us."
Coach Laxdal said that the emotions that he felt after the game last night were draining.
"I went to bed at about 2:00. Obviously, it was a late night. I was pretty tired, mentally exhausted. I can't imagine how the kids felt. It was quite a crazy night," Laxdal began.
"We're just going to stay away from the arena today to let the kids relax mentally. It's such a tough night. When you're in an elimination game like that, it could go both ways. The emotional swings from the start of the game were incredible. You could see the kids on the bench, have one great shift and you can see the emotion start to come. Then they have a bad shift and the emotions drop."
The resiliency that the team has gone through in these playoffs and this tournament helps prepare them for whatever might come on Sunday.
"Our kids are good at it. We've been through a lot of adversity in the playoffs and even in the Memorial Cup here right now, to lose in a double overtime game, have a couple days off then come back. I thought we started a bit slow last night. We gained a little bit of traction, had a 3-1 lead and we give up a goal we'd like to have back then they tie it up.
"You thought they might have scored early in that first overtime but our kids are resilient and they know how to take this day off to recover and refocus. Tomorrow's a huge game. It's a one-game, championship game for the Memorial Cup." - Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com