When the Edmonton Oil Kings take on the Seattle Thunderbirds in Game 5 at Rogers Place on Saturday, the team has a shot at winning the WHL Championship.
The Oil Kings took a 3-1 lead in Washington on Wednesday thanks to a dramatic goal from defenseman Logan Dowhaniuk with just under four seconds remaining.
READ MORE: Oil Kings build on series lead, beat Seattle Thunderbirds 3-2
“It was incredible what he did last night,” Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer said of Dowhaniuk’s goal when speaking with 630 CHEDs’ Reid Wilkins Inside Sports on Thursday evening. “He was very good for us in the playoffs.
“He was a big physical guy in our blue line – especially in this series. He’s a big part of our group. He goes against top lines and shuts them down.”
While Dowhaniuk has knocked out other teams’ scorers, he also contributed offensively during Edmonton’s 2022 playoff run, recording three goals and eight assists in 17 games.
Lauer said his coaching style isn’t usually just “defending the lead or going into overtime, but last night I thought a little bit like that.” He said that was because he wasn’t lost on Wednesday night, his team was tired and they were playing back-to-back nights and “because of the way we played a little bit and some of the minutes that some of our bigger guys played have ” because some players are injured.
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When the score was 2-2 late on Wednesday evening, he was faced with a decision.
“They took icing on the cake there and I wanted to take some time off,” he said.
But assistant coach Luke Pierce told Lauer he thought the Seattle players looked tired, so the head coach put a new line on the ice and Dowhaniuk then scored to give the team a 3-2 win.
“It worked for us,” said Lauer.
“It was definitely a very exciting time.”
Early in the game, the Oil Kings endured some scary moments, losing forward Brendan Kuny after he was hit by a Thunderbirds player before being taken off the ice on a stretcher.
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Lauer said Kuny was later discharged from the hospital and has a concussion and is being checked daily for the time being. He said he saw Kuny earlier on Thursday.
“He was a lot better,” Lauer noted. “It was nice to see him walking around after the game.
“You never want to see a teammate leave the ice on a stretcher.”
The Oil Kings were also missing goalscorer Dylan Günther on Wednesday. Lauer said his injury is also considered everyday life at the moment.
“Next man’s turn,” Lauer said of the mentality of his players as some of their teammates were injured and others were forced to log extra minutes. “[We’ve]talked a lot about going through fatigue and feeling tired and understanding that it’s going to happen with junior hockey and the trips and things like that.
“But it’s just finding your way through that fatigue… I thought our guys did a really good job.”
Former Oil Kings forward Trey Fix-Wolansky, who was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2018 NHL Draft, is spending his offseason in Edmonton, where he is from.
When continuing Inside Sports On Thursday night, the 23-year-old said he was following his former junior team’s run and was impressed.
“The way they’re playing this year, you can see they’re playing as a team and playing for each other,” Fix-Wolansky said. “They’re not playing for the name on the back, they’re playing for the coat of arms on the front.”
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Fix-Wolansky said he believes anyone going to Rogers Place for Game 5 on Saturday will be glad they did.
“It’s going to be a great game,” he said.
In the 2022 playoffs, the Oil Kings advanced to the WHL Finals for the fourth time in modern franchise history and for the first time since winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup and Memorial Cup in 2014.
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