The Oil Kings have known they will be facing off against the Ice since Winnipeg beat the Moose Jaw Warriors 6-3 in Game 5 of that series on Friday. Matthew Savoie helped the Manitoba team advance to the next round with two goals in the game.
The Oil Kings had already advanced after sweeping the Red Deer Rebels in four games.
When the puck drops at Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg on Friday to start the Eastern Conference final, it will mark the beginning of a best-of-seven battle between the two teams that had the best records in the WHL’s 2021-22 regular season. The Ice finished with 111 points while the Oil Kings ended the season with 104 points.
The series features an intriguing special teams matchup as the WHL team with the best power play in the regular season (Winnipeg Ice: 27.4 per cent) goes toe to toe with the team that had the league’s best penalty kill (Edmonton Oil Kings: 84.3 per cent).
In the regular season, the Oil Kings fared well against the Ice, going 3-1-0-0.
The last time the teams met was in 2013 when the Ice were still based in Cranbrook, B.C., and were called the Kootenay Ice.
Oil Kings forward Dylan Guenther has led the way offensively for Edmonton this post-season, recording nine goals and three assists in just eight playoff games. Ice centre Zachary Benson leads Winnipeg in scoring this post-season with eight goals and 10 assists in just 10 games.
In goal, Sebastian Cossa (8-0) is the only netminder who has been between the pipes for the Oil Kings this post-season. He has helped his team avoid a loss by maintaining a 1.48 goals-against average and .932 save percentage over eight games.
“He’s a hell of a goalie back there for us,” Oil Kings captain Jake Neighbours said about how the team is preparing to face Winnipeg’s potent offence. “I think it starts in net… but on top of that we play a solid… (defensive zone) structure.
“(Our) defencemen are really strong and aggressive and kill plays early so we can get them out of our zone and transition towards offence.”
Like Cossa has for the Oil Kings, Daniel Hauser (8-2) has occupied the Ice’s net for the entire 2022 post-season so far, putting together a 1.81 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage over 10 games.
Ahead of the series, Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer said he is emphasizing the importance of not turning pucks over to Winnipeg as that will just “feed their transition.”
“(We want to) make things a little more difficult for them,” he said. “Play a little bit heavier and play our game. Play the way we’re capable of playing.”