After ending the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ post-season in just four games, the Edmonton Oil Kings are preparing to take on another Alberta-based team in the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
The Oil Kings will face off against the Red Deer Rebels at Rogers Place on Thursday night. The Rebels booked their ticket to the second round with a 5-4 overtime win against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Sunday, winning their best-of-seven series in six games.
The Rebels finished the WHL regular season in third place in the Eastern Conference, right behind the Oil Kings.
On Wednesday, Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer told Global News that as his players prepare for the Rebels, “the biggest thing for our group is making slight adjustments against their systems.”
“It’s nothing too complicated. It’s just little things where we can maybe be a little bit more ahead of,” he said. “But other than that, it’s just our five-on-five (play), the details.
“The habits that we worked on all year long will be very important.”
Four Oil Kings players stood out offensively during Edmonton’s successful series against the Hurricanes: forward Dylan Guenther scored four goals and an assist, defenceman Kaiden Guhle scored twice and assisted on three other goals while winger Josh Williams scored a goal and collected four assists, as did forward Jakub Demek.
Goaltender Sebastian Cossa got the win in all four games against Lethbridge, earning a 1.50 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
Chase Coward played every game for the Rebels in Round 1, putting together a 1.45 goals against average and a .946 save percentage.
Two players stood out offensively for Red Deer in their series against Brandon: centre Ben King and winger Arshdeep Bains. Both players accumulated eight points over six games.
On special teams, the Oil Kings’ league-leading penalty kill was effective 84.3 per cent of the time during the regular season, while the Rebels’ penalty kill was successful 80.9 per cent of the time.
However, Red Deer’s power play proved to be more effective than Edmonton’s over the course of the 2021-22 regular season, managing to score 26.9 per cent of the time compared to 21.9 per cent for the Oil Kings.
Guenther said many of his teammates have plenty of experience playing against the Rebels and so they expect to face off against a good team.
“We know everything about them, they know everything about us,” he said.
“I think the team that works the hardest and sticks to their details and structure will probably be the team that wins.”
Lauer said he believes his teammates will be able to use the rest they earned by sweeping the Hurricanes in the first round to their advantage.
“Rest is always a weapon I believe, and then there’s always that thing where people say, ‘Well, you might be a bit flat coming out,'” he said, noting his team has had some good practices since the series against Lethbridge.
“The biggest thing is at the start of the game, the energy, the excitement, making sure we’re using (it) and being smart with the puck.”
The last time the Oil Kings met the Rebels in the post-season was in 2011.