EDMONTON 5, VICTORIA 2
During five seasons of facing Derek Laxdal’s Idaho Steelheads in the pro ECHL, Victoria hockey fans knew their Salmon Kings were in tough every time they skated into Boise.
The league and venue may have changed, but not Laxdal’s acumen on the bench. Not only are his Edmonton Oil Kings the defending Western Hockey League champions, but they are 14-3-3 at Rexall Place following Saturday night’s
5-2 victory over the Victoria Royals before 7,112 satisfied customers.
“He is a very good coach and he has shown it,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry of his opposite number, Laxdal.
“We were facing the defending league championship team. They know how to win. We’re learning. Tonight, I think we showed our youth.”
But in the formerly lowly Oil Kings — which Laxdal has built up after coming over from the ECHL three years ago — Lowry sees a template.
“You look at this franchise in Edmonton, that had a plan in place, and which stayed with that plan,” said Lowry, the 19-year National Hockey League veteran, who has earned generally good reviews this season in his first year as head man of the Royals bench after spending the last three seasons as NHL assistant coach with the Calgary Flames.
“That’s what you model yourself after to become a championship team yourself.”
The Oil Kings — featuring goaltender Tristan Jarry and forward Curtis Lazar who will play in the 2013 Canadian Hockey League/NHL Top Prospects game Jan. 16 in Halifax — won their third consecutive game to move to 21-7-5 overall and 8-2-1 over their last 11 games.
Victoria had a three-game regulation unbeaten streak snapped in falling to 17-14-2 overall and 6-3-2 over the last 11 games.
Royals captain and
20-year-old blueliner Tyler Stahl opened scoring Saturday night at 5:45 of the first period with his fourth goal of the season before Edmonton defenceman Cody Corbett levelled the score at 2:02 of the second period.
The quicksilver Victoria forward Steven Hodges, a 2012 third-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers with his eighth goal of the season, restored Victoria’s one-goal lead 54 seconds later.
The turning point of the game could have come when Royals forward and Minnesota native Logan Nelson, 2012 fifth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, missed an excellent scoring chance after Hodges’s goal.
“If Logan had been able to make it 3-1, that would have made a big difference at that point of the game,” said Lowry.
Instead, it was Michael St. Croix making it 2-2 with his 15th goal of the season for Edmonton on the power play at 5:24 of the second period.
Then Rexall’s roof fell in on the Royals with three more second-period goals by the Oil Kings. T.J. Foster scored the winner. Then Keegan Lowe, a standout blueliner and 2011 third-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Brandon Baddock sealed the deal for Edmonton.
The third period was rough and scoreless.
Jarry made 24 saves in goal for the Oil Kings while Victoria starter Patrik Polivka made only 18 saves for Victoria.
The Royals finished zero-for-four on the power play and the Oil Kings one-for-five.
The Royals — who don’t feature any Island-grown players — now break to their various hometowns until gathering again for a two-game set Dec. 28-29 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the Prince George Cougars.
© Copyright 2013