SAINT JOHN, NB - The first extended 3-on-3, sudden-death overtime in Memorial Cup history simply didn't disappoint.
Forward Jaxsen Wiebe picked his spot top shelf for his hat-trick goal and the game-winner 8:05 into the 20-minute extra frame on Wednesday night as the Edmonton Oil Kings answered back from their opening round-robin defeat at the Memorial Cup with a 4-3 overtime victory over the host Saint John Sea Dogs.
"I thought we responded from that loss as best we could," Wiebe said. "But honestly, the barn was rocking tonight. They had their energy behind them, but we did our best to withstand that and give our own pushes. Great effort from our guys."
Goaltender Sebastien Cossa turned in a solid third-star performance with 36 saves on 39 shots while forward Carter Souch factored in with a goal and two assists to help the Oil Kings secure their first victory of the tournament.
"It's big for our group to get that first one under our belts," Souch said. "I think our performance yesterday was unacceptable as a group, and I think that started with me. We needed everyone tonight and we got a full 70-minute effort."
With the overtime victory, Edmonton now sits on two points through two games -- two behind the Sea Dogs and one behind the Shawinigan Cataractes after both QMJHL sides earned regulation victories in their opening contests.
After a major boarding penalty to forward Carson Golder in the first 10 minutes of their opening defeat to Shawinigan on Tuesday led to the QMJHL champions opening the scoring on an extended man advantage, the Oil Kings flipped the script against the tournament hosts when Wiebe jammed home a loose puck in the crease on Edmonton's opening power play 2:14 into the contest.
Before the five-minute mark, the Oil Kings were up by a pair after an end-to-end sequence led to Carter Souch converting a slick feed from Josh Williams off the left post and past Sea Dogs netminder Nikolas Hurtubise on a 2-on-1 just over two minutes after Edmonton jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage.
But just as quickly as the Oil Kings staked themselves to a two-goal advantage, the Sea Dogs stormed back to take the lead.
Raivis Kristians Ansons and Josh Lawrence struck twice in 25 seconds to level the score, then William Dufour picked his spot over the left pad of Sebastien Cossa on the 10-minute mark of the first period to complete a three-goal stretch of 3:59 for the Sea Dogs and a five-goal first period that saw Saint John outshoot the Oil Kings 16-9.
Cossa made his biggest contribution with a breakaway stop in the second period on Ansons with the Sea Dogs up 3-2, stamping out the forehand-to-backhand attempt from Latvian 2020 fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins and keep it a one-goal game.
That save from the Detroit Red Wings first-rounder proved vital after Wiebe netted his second of the night on the power play by gloving down Souch's shot off the post and placing his backhand into the Sea Dogs net before the netminder could react in time.
"It definitely starts with the team," Cossa said of his shutdown final two frames. "I think they definitely got their looks in the first period and I was forced to make a couple of good saves, but they got a couple by me too. I think after the first intermission we talked about our game and weren't really happy with it, so we came out in the second and third and showed a little better of ourselves and took away their chances."
Following a couple of important penalty kills in a scoreless third period, the Oil Kings and Sea Dogs would head to a 3-on-3, 20-minute overtime period that marked the first time in Memorial Cup history that a round-robin game would be settled in that manner after the Canadian Hockey League implemented the rule modifications before the start of the tournament.
The change led to exciting end-to-end hockey in the extra period to decide a winner, and it was Wiebe putting a ribbon on an excellent overtime period and hockey game with a snipe over the left shoulder of Hurtubise just past the eight-minute mark to notch the 20-year-old his hat trick and keep Edmonton's fate at the Memorial Cup well within their own hands.
"Obviously I'm pretty excited," Wiebe said post-game. "It's my first career hat-trick and I'll take it at the Memorial Cup obviously, but I couldn't have done it without the team and without the boys. We had some adversity tonight, and we bent but didn't break. I'm proud of the guys for that, so I couldn't have done it without them."
The Oil Kings are idle on Thursday after playing back-to-back games and will resume action on Friday when they line up against the Hamilton Bulldogs in their final round-robin contest of the tournament. The Bulldogs -- OHL champions -- are in action on Thursday against Oilers first-round draft pick Xavier Bourgault and the Shawinigan Cataractes after they dropped the opening game of the tournament 5-3 to the Sea Dogs on Monday.
"I think every team in this tournament is going to be strong," Wiebe said. "Obviously, you have to bring your best game every night, but with Hamilton, we'll just prepare for them, watch our video, do our due diligence, and they're a strong team. We're going to have to bring a probably even-better effort than we did tonight.
"We'll take our off-day tomorrow, we'll regroup, and we'll be ready for our next challenge here."
Photo Credit: Vincent Ethier