Tuesday, March 18, 2014





The Edmonton Oil Kings and the Prince Albert Raiders, here in action last month, will play in the first round of the WHL playoffs starting March 22, 2014, at Rexall Place. The Raiders beat the host Red Deer Rebels March 18 in a play-in game — held as the two teams were tied for eighth in the league’s Western Conference — to determine who would face the top-seeded Oil Kings.

Photograph by: Shaughn Butts , Edmonton Journal

Edmonton Journal - by: Chris O'Leary - 

RED DEER — The Edmonton Oil Kings have a dance partner for the Western Hockey League playoffs.

The Prince Albert Raiders downed the Red Deer Rebels 5-3 in a play-in game on Tuesday night, qualifying as the eighth-seed in the WHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs. They’ll travel to Edmonton to face the top-seeded Oil Kings on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for Game 1 of the series. Game 2 goes Sunday at 4 p.m.

Created by a tie in points for the eight-seed spot, the play-in was just the fifth ever in WHL history. The Oil Kings and Raiders played in the most recent one, with Edmonton squeezing into the playoffs with a 2-1 overtime win in that game in 2009.

Technically a one-off game in hockey purgatory — outside of the regular-season but not a part of the post-season — Tuesday’s game had a playoff feel.

While Prince Albert out-shot the Rebels 47-30, the teams played a tight game that was never larger than a one-goal lead. They traded breakaway goals in a fast second period (Evan Polei doing the damage for Red Deer and Reid Gardner striking for Prince Albert) and the Rebels took a 3-2 lead into the third, thanks to a shifty goal by Red Deer winger Rhyse Dieno.

Dieno took a pass in front of the Raiders net and pulled goalie Nick McBride to his right. He quickly went back to his left and stashed the puck home for the lead.

The Raiders seized control of the game early in the third period, with Dakota Conroy setting up Collin Valcourt’s power-play goal at 2:21, then squeaking one past Bartosak at 4:43 to put Prince Albert in front, 4-3. The Raiders held that lead through the period and kept the Rebels in their own end through much of the final 90 seconds of play. Red Deer pulled goalie Patrik Bartosak with 45 seconds to go, but Josh Morrissey flipped the puck into the empty net to close the game out.
With their season over, the Rebels got a warm send-off from a crowd of 5,411.

The Oil Kings could have sealed the Rebels’ playoff fate on Sunday in the regular-season finale, but Red Deer won that game 5-0. Edmonton sat Griffin Reinhart, Curtis Lazar, Henrik Samuelsson, Reid Petryk, Edgars Kulda, Blake Orban and Brandon Baddock in that game, taking much of the challenge away from the visiting team, which needed the win to force this extra game.

The Oil Kings were 2-1-0-1 against the Raiders this season.


Three unanswered goals in the third period help visitors:

NOTE: Players listed in Italics are the starting lineup.
1. P.A J. Hart, (1) (C. Brooks, R. Gardiner), 7:08
1. R.D W. Johnson, (1) (S. Feser, K. Dixon), 11:52
2. R.D E. Polei, (1) (B. Maxwell, R. Dieno), 7:43
2. P.A R. Gardiner, (1) (J. Hart), 11:01
2. R.D R. Dieno, (1) (C. Bleackley), 13:57 (PP)
3. P.A C. Valcourt, (1) (D. Conroy, L. Draisaitl), 2:21 (PP)
3. P.A D. Conroy, (1) (L. Draisaitl, J. Morrissey), 4:43
3. P.A J. Morrissey, (1) (J. Hart), 19:45 (EN)
2 - P.A T. Andrlik, 3:54 - Delay of Game, 2 min (PP)
2 - P.A S. Lange, 13:11 - Tripping, 2 min (PP)
3 - R.D P. Bartosak, 1:16 - Tripping, 2 min (PP)
3 - P.A J. Hart, 9:06 - Hooking, 2 min