April 11, 2019
by Derek Van Diest, Edmonton, Sun
CALGARY — It’s over. On to the next round.
The Edmonton Oil Kings advanced to the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference Final with a 6-0 victory against the Calgary Hitmen in Game 4 of their second-round series at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday.
With the win, the Oil Kings swept the best-of-seven series 4-0 and now await the winner of the Prince Albert Raiders, Saskatoon Blade series, which is tied 2-2.
Scott Atkinson (00, Vancouver), Quinn Benjafield (98, North Vancouver), Jake Neighbours (02, Airdrie), Vince Loschiavo (98, Winnipeg), Wyatt McLeod (00, Dawson Creek) and Andrew Fyten (98, Didsbury) scored for the Oil Kings, while goaltender Dylan Myskiw (99, Winnigeg) made 18 saves for his first playoff shutout.
“Obviously, they had their backs against the wall, but I really liked how we came out and how we played,” said Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer. “We played a good team game, we did the stuff we talked about that we needed to make corrections and I thought as a group we played more of a five-on-five, more of a team game.”
It’s the first time the Oil Kings have advanced to the conference final since winning the Memorial Cup in 2014. They’ve missed the playoffs the previous two seasons before qualifying this year.
Having lost 2-1 in overtime the previous night and gone seven games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first round, the Hitmen looked spent heading into Game 4.
The Oil Kings went into the contest determined to put Calgary away and got off to a good start as Atkinson scored five minutes into the first period.
Atkinson picked up a rebound after a shot from Andrei Pavlenko that had been tipped by Vladimir Alistrov was stopped by Hitmen goaltender Jack McNaughton, and lifted it into the net.
“I don’t think we had our full effort those first three games, so it was nice to get a good one in the end going into next series,” Atkinson said. “Hopefully, we just build some confidence off that and come out flying in the next series.”
Benjafield made it 2-0 with two minutes left in the period, cutting to the net off the right wing and tucking it past McNaughton. The goal seemed to deflate the Hitmen, who knew they were fighting an up-hill battle.
Calgary lost seven of the eight regular-season meetings against Edmonton this year, so asking them to win three straight after falling behind 3-0 in the series was a tall order.
Neighbours extended the Oil Kings lead to 3-0 at 7:40 of the second period on another rebound in front of McNaughton. The Hitmen’s 17-year-old goaltender had been outstanding throughout the series, keeping his team in every contest, but was simply overwhelmed in Game 4. The rookie goaltender made 24 saves before getting the mercy pull, replaced by Carl Stankowski at the start of the third. Stankowski stopped eight shots.
When Loschiavo scored on the power play on a shot from the high slot to make it 4-0, it was pretty much curtains for the Hitmen, who did well to get to the second round, knocking off the favoured Hurricanes in the first.
“That’s something we wanted to focus on is getting a quick start and minimizing our turnovers,” Atkinson said. “We wanted to make them play in their end and we did a good job of that.”
Loschiavo, 21, has had an outstanding playoff for the Oil Kings, leading the team in scoring with five goals and 10 points in 10 games. Benjafield has also been good with four goals and eight points so far in the playoffs.
Trey Fix-Wolansky, who was kept off the scoreboard in Game 4, has three goals and eight points in 10 games.
McLeod, who scored the winner in the overtime victory on Tuesday, made it 5-0 before the end of the second period. Zach Russell fed Josh Williams in front, who was stopped by McNaughton, but McLeod buried the rebound following up on the play.
The Hitmen came out in the third looking to ruin Myskiw’s shutout, but with the game in hand, that’s all the Oil Kings were playing for at that point.
After withstanding an early barrage, Fyten scored to make it 6-0, converting a setup from David Kope in front.
The Oil Kings will have more than a week off before starting the next series, which will likely begin on the road on April 19.
“It was really nice to get the shutout, it’s something I don’t think about much or want to think about at least,” Myskiw said. “I was hoping to get it (Tuesday) but I got it (Wednesday) and I was thankful to get it. The team was a huge part of that.”
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