LONDON, ON - On the heels of last night's loss to Guelph, the Edmonton Oil Kings had an optional skate on Sunday in which most of tonight's lineup elected to not take part. Instead, the team focused their preparation on an all-new opponent: London.
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal spoke with the media this morning and reflected on last night's 5-2 loss to OHL Champion Guelph.
"The biggest thing for us is we have to play that really structured game for 60 minutes. I thought we got away from our game a couple of times and when we did, they capitalized. We were sitting there (in the lead at) 2-1. I liked their energy there in the second period. We were pushing. And they got that bounce. They had a couple of bounces last night but overall if you look at it, there's a lot of things we could do better. We could battle a lot harder, we could have more intensity in the offensive zone and defensive zone."
Edmonton now moves on to another Ontario Hockey League opponent in London. Laxdal felt that the team showed that it can play with the best of that league last night with their performance against the champs.
"But the biggest thing for our team last night, we can play with Guelph, we can play with London. Our confidence will grow," he said.
Laxdal was asked about whether tonight was a must-win. And while a 1-2 record wouldn't necessary count them out of the playoff round, Laxdal felt that a bounce back tonight was very important.
"In a short-term tournament like this, that term comes up pretty frequently. Especially when you have to turn around the next day. There's not a lot of prep time for us for London but we held some meetings last night and our kids are resilient. We talked about that in the Portland series and it seems like the way now. We're in a new tournament and we have to be ready to go tonight."
A big change for tonight for the Oil Kings will be the crowd. While impartial last night, they will be sold out and solidly behind the hometown Knights tonight.
"It was funny, yesterday the rink was packed but the fans didn't really know who to cheer for. They were just there to watch some good hockey," said Curtis Lazar. "Tonight's going to be completely different but we have the experience playing in full barns like Portland. We know what it takes to spoil the party as you could say. Taking the crowd out of it early is going to be key."
Goaltender Tristan Jarry felt that the experience of playing in front of sold out high-capacity crowds in Portland -- and winning two critical games there in Game 5 and Game 7 -- will help his squad this evening.
"Playing in Portland really helped. It helped our players and it helped me with the environment that you're in with the fans. So I think it'll help us here tonight," Jarry remarked.
Coach Laxdal doesn't feel like the crowd will be a factor.
"It doesn't matter what the crowd's like. We have to go out and focus on the team on the ice. The message for us, like any game, is whistle to whistle. Our emotions were high last night in a big competition game and for some of our kids there was a lot of extra activity after the whistles. We have to focus and channel that energy between whistle to whistle to increase our intensity in the game."
A big change for the Oil Kings at the Memorial Cup versus the WHL Playoffs is after a loss they don't get the opportunity to bounce back against the same opponent. The team has been trying to get in that mindset.
"It's such a high-tempo tournament. All the teams are very good here. You have to come out with your best game every day. You don't see these teams all year and don't get to play them so it's quite different," said Jarry.
Lazar added that he hopes that he can bring his World Junior experience to the table, where the feel of that tournament is very similar to this one.
"Still looking for our first win. In a short-term competition you do need those wins. For myself and Griffin (Reinhart) we're going to pass on that knowledge. Just rise to the challenge. Every day there's a new challenge available and it's up for the taking. It's a matter of which team is going to go out there and executive the best to get the win."