By Terry Jones , Edmonton Sun
LONDON, Ont. — It’s not like the Edmonton Oil Kings haven’t climbed up off the floor before.
Coach Derek Laxdal said that’s the upside of the situation his WHL champions suddenly find themselves.
This team which gassed a 5-2 lead after the second period of Game 7 of the WHL Final in Edmonton, flew to Portland and won Game 7 to get here.
But you should know that they now face the possibility of doing what the former Edmonton Ice, the Kootenay Ice, did the last time the Memorial Cup was here. They went 0-3.
While 5-2 ended up the final score here against the OHL champion Guelph Storm after the Oil Kings gave up an “own goal” by Mads Eller to lose a 2-1 lead, the recent history helped in the post game dressing room.
“It wasn’t as bad as it was after Game 6 against Portland,” said Laxdal of the mood and the attitude in the room.
“They understand what’s going on.
“They understand they have to regroup.
“They understand we have to be better.
“They understand we have to be better as a whole team Sunday.
“We have to step up our game. We’re one game into it now. It’s time to move on.
“The kids were upbeat after the game. So we’ll be ready to play Sunday night.
“London is a tough team. They’re right there with Guelph. We’re not going to expect any different.”
It’s a strange tournament, the Memorial Cup.
You need to win one game in the round robin to qualify for a tie-breaker. Two will get you a semi-final. Three will get you a bye to the final.
The way it’s worked out this year, the two teams which lost their openers meet on Sunday.
Somebody is gong to be in deep doo doo sooner than later, deeper than the doo doo the Budweiser Clydesdales are leaving around as they tour the town with a wagon carrying the Memorial Cup.
For openers the 96th edition of the event, it has been an exceptionally even tournament.
But the Val d’Or Foreurs rode the 51-save goaltending of Antoine Bibeau to a 1-0 win over the London Knights for openers and a goofy goal turned a game around on Edmonton.
“This is a huge game. London is 0-1. We’re 0-1. We’re trying to get that first win. London is trying to get that first win,” said Laxdal.
“The standings are huge. We want to get to that semi-final. We want to get to that final. You can’t get there unless you win a game. So this next game is huge for us.
“For us the positive thing is we turn around and play again immediately. We can’t sit and dwell on it. That’s the positive for us. We have to do the same thing we did against Portland.
“We just talked about it. We had a reset. When we walk out of here tonight, we know we have to start fresh with London.
“I wouldn’t say we played our ‘A’ game tonight. Maybe ‘B’ plus. We can be a lot better in certain areas. It’s going to be their crowd in there and we have to be ready to respond,” concluded Laxdal.
“It’s got to be short term memory loss as soon as we leave the rink here,” said captain Griffin Reinhart.
“We’ve got to leave it behind and move on. It’s going to be a lot of fun playing the host. We’ve played before big crowds before and in this kind of atmosphere. London’s 0-1. We’re 0-1.
“We’re both going to be playing desperate hockey.”
Scott Walker, coach of the Guelph Storm, can’t wait to watch it.
“That will be a heck of a battle. They both play a heavy, hard game and it will be fun to watch.