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The long game: Exhausted Oil Kings battle their way to Memorial Cup final

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LONDON, Ont. — By the time the game was over and all their interviews were done, it was already past their curfew. In this case, head coach Derek Laxdal cut his Edmonton Oil Kings some slack. After all, they had just won the longest game in Memorial Cup history – a thrilling 4-3 triple overtime victory over the Val-d’Or Foreurs that propelled the WHL champions to the tournament final on Sunday.

“I know the coaches are tired,” said Laxdal. “I can’t imagine how the players feel.”

The general consensus - they were thoroughly exhausted and ready for bed. The game lasted a full 102 minutes and 42 before Curtis Lazar’s deflection of defenceman Cody Corbett’s shot ended the game. It went on so long, that Lazar said he barely had enough energy to celebrate scoring the game winner.

“When I scored and started doing the chicken (celebration) I tried to think to myself, ‘did it go in? Because I could be acting really stupid,’” said the first round pick of the Ottawa Senators.

At the end of the day it was just incredible to be a part of that six period game.
— Head coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings Derek Laxdal

“My first thought is to go to bed it’s so late right now.”

Surprisingly, Lazar said it was the first overtime goal of his impressive junior career. In three full seasons with the Oil Kings the 19-year-old has scored 99 in the WHL regular season, 27 goals in the playoffs and three as a member of Canada’s world junior team this year.

“That’s the first overtime goal I’ve ever scored,” said Lazar. “That’s pretty cool.”

Teammate Mitch Moroz said he blacked out after the winner was scored and was emotionally drained after the marathon game.

“I don’t even remember half of the game now, looking back” said Moroz in the post-game press conference. “It was such a long time just going pedal down. We’re going to look back one day and say that was an unbelievable game. I’m proud of these guys right now.”

Heading into the third overtime, Moroz said a short prayer to their former Oil Kings teammate Kristians Pelss, who accidentally drowned last June. The team dedicated the season to the Latvian star and each of their jerseys has the words “Play for Pelssy” stitched on the inside. The Oil Kings – and Moroz in particular - have regularly used Pelss as motivation and inspiration when they’ve needed it most.

“I thought we just needed a little inspiration from above,” said the Edmonton Oilers draft pick. “I knew we were hanging on by a thread.”

The game went so long players started to cramp up. Edmonton’s Edgars Kulda practically collapsed into the Oil Kings bench in the final overtime. Both teams were skating end-to-end on fumes and dumping the puck down the ice just to buy a few extra seconds of rest.

(Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

“(Kulda) was cramping up at the end there and he couldn’t even make it to the bench because his quads were cramping up,” said Laxdal. “I think if the game had gone any longer you would have seen a few more players starting to cramp up. At the end of the day it was just incredible to be a part of that six period game.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams and the second time they went to overtime together. In their round-robin game, it was the Foreurs that came out with a 4-3 victory in double overtime. Anthony Richard who played the role as hero for the Foreurs, scoring the winner after defenceman Samuel Henley scored to send the game to overtime with less than five minutes left in the game.

On Friday night, it was defenceman Guillaume Gelinas whose point shot beat Tristan Jarry with 36 seconds left in on the clock. Gelinas missed the earlier meeting while recovering from a contusion above his knee after being injured by Guelph Storm's Chadd Bauman. Heading into the second overtime period was like a bad case of déjà vu for a number of the Oil Kings – especially since they had already come out on the losing end once before.

“I was pretty choked,” said Moroz. “I wasn’t even watching the last two minutes (of the period). I was just looking down praying and I wasn’t even watching the game.”

Oddly enough, the Oil Kings had practiced the play – forwards redirecting point shots - that won the game for them at great length on Thursday. They knew they’d have to change it up in order to beat Val-d’Or goaltender Antoine Bibeau who was fantastic throughout the tournament and finished the night with 50 saves.

“It’s actually kind of funny because we worked on those slap passes in the last practice and for it to pay off tonight is pretty incredible,” said Lazar.

The Oil Kings will have to regroup for another, bigger game on Sunday when they face the OHL champion Guelph Storm in the Memorial Cup final. The Storm are undefeated through the tournament and beat Edmonton 5-2 in the round-robin. After the playing the longest game in Memorial Cup history, however, the Oil Kings weren’t as focused on Guelph as much as they were on sleep.

Once he’d answered his final question Moroz started walking away, turned around and yelled, “I’m going to bed!”

 

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