Game one between Edmonton and Red Deer started off where the last two games left off. Just seconds in It was captain on captain when Red Deer's Colin Archer tried to cream Oil King blueliner Mark Pysyk. The Buffalo Sabre draft pick just got out of the way and avoided most of the hit. Things continued at the other end when Darcy Kuemper gave TJ Foster a face full of leather, drawing a scrum and giving Edmonton their first power play.
The visitors couldn't score on with the man advantage, but Red Deer did on theirs. When Kristans Pelss took a hooking penalty Alex Petrovic set up Byron Froese who let go a rocket of a one timer from the left face off dot. Jon Groenhyde had no chance on the 4 on 3 goal as Froese absolutely drilled it.
The Rebels second goal was a different story, Brett Ferguson circled in the offensive zone, waited for Keegan Lowe to commit and sent a wrister past Groenhyde 7 hole. He might have been partially screened, but it's one your goalie has to stop. The Rebels led by 2 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was just starting to warm up, that's never a good sign for an opponent of Red Deer.
Ferguson got his name on the scoresheet a little later in the first when he and Adrian Van de Mosselaer gave the fans a John Wayne Special, putting up their Dukes.
However the Oil Kings weren't just going to roll over and let Red Deer take over. A strong forecheck by Kristans Pelss which followed some great puck control by Dylan Wruck, led to the puck squirting out to the high slot where a cruising Keegan Lowe unloaded a one time blast past Kuemper bringing the Oil Kings within one. Lowe by the way will be a guest of TPS Saturday morning 10-12 mst. Full guest list here.
It was almost a 2 goal lead again in the dying seconds, but Groenhyde made an outstanding stretch save on Josh Cowan just before the buzzer went, keeping it 2-1 after 20 minutes. But how about this stat from the SHAW broadcast crew of Dan Russell and Bill Wilms - the Rebels were 31-1-1 this season when leading after one period...wow.
The 2nd brought more fireworks when a couple of St. Albert boys tangled. Oil Kings forward and TPS guest blogger Travis Ewanyk went toe to toe with Turner Elson and give Ewanyk the slight edge. From then on the Oil Kings really started coming on and when Kuemper couldn't squeeze the pillows on a shot, Cameron Abney swept in the rebound for the tying goal. After being outshot 14-10 in the first, the Oil Kings had the Rebels on the ropes outshooting them 15-3 late in the 2nd period. The middle stanza ended with the game tied, but if the puck didn't bounce over TJ Foster's stick in the dying seconds on a PP, it would have been 3-2 Edmonton.
Red Deer had a glorious chance to take the lead in the 3rd on a power play after Marek Hrbas crunched Turner Elson. Hrbas was giving a charging penalty, but I don't think it was valid. Both guys were going towards the puck, Elson was hunched over and from all the angles I saw on the SHAW broadcast, Hrbas' skates didn't leave the ice. Red Deer bench boss Jesse Wallin appeared to want a 5 minute major, but the stripes got together and settled on 2. The Rebels fired away and RNH was impressive but the Oil Kings executed a great penalty kill.
But they couldn't contain the 'Nuge' for long, just about the mid point of the 3rd Dylan Wruck turned it over in the neutral zone, Nugent-Hopkins made a wonderful drop pass for Andrej Kudrna who ripped it high blocker side on Groenhyde for a 3-2 lead. One of the many examples of how skilled and smart the possible first overall pick is in clutch situations.
Once again Edmonton came back at the Rebels, Kristians Pelss put in the extra effort to get the puck to Michael St. Croix who curled and fired high glove on Kuemper to tie things at 3. The Oil Kings goal matched their playoff total in goals from two years ago when they were swept by the Hitmen with St. Croix's tally and it was one more then they scored all year at the Enmax Centrium. Again more good stats from the SHAW crew.
The momentum shifted once again with just over 5 minutes to go. Adrian Van de Mosselaer missed with the big hit on Kudrna, who outweighted a sliding Rhett Rachinski and slid it to a waiting RNH who was like a dog on a bone cleaned up for his 3rd point and a 4-3 lead. Great set up by Kudrna who put on the brakes and let Rachinski commit.
Then the prodigy came through again. After Mark Pysyk took a slashing penalty (the broadcast couldn't pick it up because it was behind the play so I can't say whether it was a good or bad penalty) Nugent-Hopkins started and finished a terrific give and go with Kudrna. The shot was perfectly placed just out of Groenhyde's reach and with almost 4 to play the Rebels owned a 2 goal lead. It was the 3rd point for each guy in the 3rd and the 4th overall for #9.
the Oil Kings best chance came with just over a minute to play when Dylan Wruck tried to jam it in short side on Kuemper but the probable league MVP got the sears catalogue down and a mob converged to make sure the puck didn't cross the line. Red Deer contained the Oil Kings from there and won 5-3.
RNH doubled his playoff production from last year in one game and the Rebels drew first blood, but the Oil Kings had them on the run for a portion of the game. The lack of rivalry between the two teams was talked about a lot leading up to game one, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. An intense game one will hopefully lead to 6 more just like it starting tomorrow night in Red Deer.