Fort Saskatchewan, AB - The Edmonton Oil Kings have set their standard.
The 2012 WHL Champions proved it Wednesday night at the Jubilee Recreation Centre in Fort Saskatchewan. In a meaningless Red vs. White intrasquad game to wrap up training camp, the club's bubble boys and roster players pounded each other with punishing hits and surprising toe-to-toe matchups in a highly entertaining 60-minute clash.
When the dust settled, Team White emerged with a 5-3 victory. It was an appropriate way to begin the club's quest to repeat as champions, as the Oil Kings' motto was most certainly on display:
‘All it takes is all you've got.'
"That's the standard. We expect nothing less," said Oilers prospect Travis Ewanyk. "We won the League, but we have a lot of unfinished business (losing in the Memorial Cup). As a team and as an organization, no one's happy with how we did in Shawinigan. It's not going to be easy, but we've got to battle back there.
"We know what we have to do."
Ewanyk missed a large portion of the 2011-12 season due to shoulder surgery that sidelined him until late-February. In total, the 19-year-old played in 11 regular-season games, posting a goal and three assists, as well as a +8 rating and eight penalty minutes. He added another three goals in the post-season as he helped the Oil Kings capture it all vs. Portland in the WHL Final.
"It was a quick summer, but I didn't mind it," Ewanyk said, obviously upbeat. "I skated all summer, didn't take any time off because I didn't feel like I needed it. My body is 100 percent now. I feel stronger than ever and it's nice knowing in the back of your mind that your body is there."
Just 1:31 into the opening 20, Oil Kings veteran TJ Foster got White on the board with a cheeky wraparound that beat rookie netminder Derek Mazil clean under the bar.
But once a goal had been tallied, other scores needed to be settled. Teammates or not, the gloves came off. First up, 5'11", 179-pound Stephane Legault engaged the much larger White defenceman, Cody Corbett. The pair danced for nearly a minute, but the bout was declared a draw.
Just three seconds into the second period when the score remained the same, Oilers prospect Mitch Moroz (Red) took on Klarc Wilson in another energetic tilt.
"It's good to see," Moroz said. "Guys are coming in and know they still have to battle for a spot. It's all part of the game and I know there are no hard feelings between anyone."
Moroz wanted more late in the game when a lippy Henrik Samuelsson started to run his mouth near the benches. The Oilers' second round pick in 2012 had enough, dropped his gloves and did his best to calm the situation. Samuelsson, chosen 27th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes, wasn't interested.
Samuelsson wasn't done either. As the game ended, he and roommate Keegan Lowe got involved in a quick skirmish that resulted in punches dished across the outstretched arms of the intervening linesmen. The pair eventually separated and were escorted to their respective locker rooms.
Not only do Lowe and Samuelsson live together, but they also carpooled to the game. That'll be an awkward ride home...
"They're going to be driving together in 20 minutes," Moroz laughed. "In the heat of the battle, you don't really think about it. You're in there and your competitiveness comes out. I'm sure they're not too worried about it."
"It was one of the more physical games I've seen in my time here," Ewanyk added. "It shows what kind of team we've become -- we compete hard and don't take anything out there. Guys are going hard, guys want to win and that's the culture we've built as a team."
White took a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the period when Henrik Samuelsson scooped up an Edgars Kulda rebound and popped it upstairs on Mazil.
Mazil, 16, allowed another near the period's midway mark. In 29:31 of action, he stopped 13 shots before Tristan Jarry was given the call in his place (as scheduled). At the other end, Patrick Dea pitched a 20-save shutout before MVP Laurent Brossoit was given the reigns.
Jarry's Red squad couldn't contain White's relentless attack, as Curtis Lazar and Luke Bertolucci each scored late in the second to make it a 5-0 game.
With exactly 7:00 to play, Red began to surge back into contention. On a dangerous-looking 3-on-1, a tic-tac-toe sequence landed on the stick of Sherwood Park native Brett Pollock, who buried the puck past Brossoit.
Pollock scored again late, and then once more to record the hat trick with about a minute to play, but the game was already well out of reach despite a late surge that saw Red captain Keegan Lowe clip Brossoit's glove-side post with a seeing-eye point shot.
Too little, too late.
With camp wrapped up, the Oil Kings are now set to host their annual pre-season invitational this weekend at Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert. The Oil Kings will be in action on Saturday and Sunday, both 7pm starts, against the visiting Swift Current Broncos and Red Deer Rebels.
"It's going to be a high compete level," Ewanyk said. "Everyone's going to be gunning for us this year and we know that -- we want to be that team, to be the hunted. We've got to back it up right from exhibition. We want to win every game."
That's a champion's standard.
Note: Fellow Oilers prospect Martin Gernat did not play and hasn't skated yet in training camp. He's still suffering from some ongoing soreness in his left shoulder that was sustained during the 2012 World Junior Championship. He's currently skating on his own and hopes to be ready soon.