Sat May 24 01:37am EDT
LONDON, Ont. — For Curtis Lazar and the Oil Kings, it's the longest one but not the last one.
Edmonton is not the first team that's played two more games than the rested round-robin winner which awaits it in the Memorial Cup final. The twist is that the Oil Kings did it in one night, vanquishing Val-d'Or 4-3 in triple overtime after Lazar tipped Cody Corbett's shot by Antoine Bibeau in the 103rd minute. Those among the crowd of 8,776 at the Budweiser Gardens who stuck around for four hours and 12 minutes of breathless do-or-done hockey were rewarded for it.
The Oil Kings will have, counting their cooldown, fewer than 40 hours to regroup for the final against Guelph. It might matter, but right now they don't mind.
"They were probably sitting there back at the hotel just licking their chops," Lazar said of the Storm. "It was a memorable night. It's the longest game in Memorial Cup history. We got that momentum now but Guelph's had that time off. It's going to be a cool mix. We're going to go out there and play a 60-minute game — hopefully — and leave it all on the ice."
"My first thought was go to bed, it's so late right now," the Ottawa Senators first-round pick said. "It's a big relief. That goal in the third, that's my guy. It went out there and I wasn't able to block it."
Hopefully. Nice touch, Curtis. More overtime might seem like overkill after the instant classics between Edmonton and Val-d'Or, who went tooth and nail for nearly 184 minutes this week. Foreurs captain Guillaume Gélinas' tying goal with 36 seconds left in the third period felt like ancient history by the time the clubs had gone through two overtimes. Players were beginning to move slower. Edmonton's Edgars Kulda cramped up at one point.
"I don't know if I was happier that I got to go sleep pretty soon or that we get to go to the final," Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart said. "It was an awesome game and they came back and we wanted to make sure we were on the good side of it."
"You could tell by the way both teams started to play that they were tired."
The Oil Kings survived a delay-of-game penalty on Ashton Sautner in the second OT. It also got hairy around Tristan Jarry (46 saves) in that session. Lazar's winner came on a practiced deflection, which coach Derek Laxdal reckoned "was probably about the only way" to beat Val-d'Or's Antoine Bibeau. The goalie made 50 saves, finishing the week with 178 in (officially) four games.
"It was pretty fun to be a part of," Lazar said. "You'd dump the puck and just sit there and catch your breath. There wasn't a lot of forechecking. There were a bunch of 3-on-2s. That's overtime hockey and you embrace it.
Guelph will be well-rested for Sunday after having three days off, and ought to be focused. Edmonton has to reset after playing two marathons vs. the Foreurs, who came back from two-goal deficits in both games.
The Sportsnet-mandated 4:30 p.m. ET start on Sunday might work better for the Storm than for Edmonton. The Oil Kings will have to refuel, but they're aware of what they've done just to be one of the last two teams standing.
"It'll be a day of rest on Saturday," Laxdal said. "The big thing for us is that our season has been incredible. First team in the history of the WHL to win Game 7 [of the final] on the road. Longest game in the history of the Memorial Cup. The kids, they're writing their own story whether we can finish the book, finish the chapter on Sunday.
"I think if the game had gone any longer you would have seen more kids start to cramp up," Lazar added. "It was incredible to be part of that six-period game. The coaches are tired, I can't imagine how the players feel."
One had to ask, what's tougher? Play Game 6 of the WHL final in Edmonton and play Game 7 in Portland the following evening? Or play triple OT in the Cup semi on Friday and play a faster Guelph team that's more rested in the Sunday final?
"They're probably tied," Jarry said. "Hopefully Saturday we're going to get to sleep in and then get a good breakfast."
Jarry added he had a hunch the OT might go long. The Oil Kings players were joking that they were at risk of violating their 12 a.m. curfew.
"We were pretty sure it was going to be a long one," he said. "We just had to regroup. With two good teams, it will take a while."
Either way, Edmonton's training staff will earn its pay on Saturday.
"We have the necessities to hydrate and recover and stretch," Lazar said. "It's the Memorial Cup final. It's not going to take much to get up for that game."
'Good understanding of what we need to do'
Sometimes in long overtimes, players can become so fixated on the endless unfolding fray that they neglect replacing fluids. Lazar said he "drank about six Gatorades" during the record contest.
"The trainers did a good job of keeping us on it, making sure we were getting carbs back," Reinhart said. "We're all semi-pro athletes right now and we all have a good understanding of what we need to do."
The fact it's unseasonably cool in London and inside the Bud Gardens might mitigate Edmonton's tiredness. They're not dealing with the same mugginess that marked and marred the 2012 Cup, where the Shawinigan Cataractes played two more games than London to reach the final.
"Sometimes it helps to keep getting those games under your best and not to sit around and wait," Reinhart said. "We'll try to treat it that way."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.