The Edmonton Oil Kings, led by Griffin Reinhart (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Oil Kings won their first national title with a win over Guelph and to ask the Edmonton players, they had a guardian angel watching over them in departed teammate Kristian Pelss.
LONDON, ON – They played more hockey than any other team at the Memorial Cup and still saved the best for last. Facing a dominant Guelph Storm team, the Edmonton Oil Kings turned the tables on the Ontario League champs with an impressive 6-3 victory in the final.
Not only did Edmonton's defense shut down big guns such Jason Dickinson, Brock McGinn and Scott Kosmachuk, but they essentially did it using four blueliners. New York Islanders pick and team captain Griffin Reinhart led the way, but Colorado prospect Cody Corbett, 2014 draft prospect Dysin Mayo and Ashton Sautner also played a ton in the downing of Guelph.
"They've got a lot of speed and pretty much four lines that can score," Mayo said. "So we had to rely on our defensive game and then attack when we got the opportunity."
Reinhart had been criticized by some fans on social media earlier in the tournament, but his assignment every night was to shut down the other team's top guns and he was very successful in that regard. Against Guelph, he had to deal with a Storm team that had firepower spread out, meaning he really had two lines to fight. Even though 2014 draft prospect Robby Fabbri and Minnesota prospect Zack Mitchell both scored, they and liney Kerby Rychel (Columbus) were largely held in check – and goalie Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh) was there to stop any attempts that got through.
"The team did a great job in front of me," Jarry said. "They were getting pucks deep, giving me the breaks I needed. When I had a rebound that was loose, they were there for me."
On the offensive end, Edmonton had its own super line in Henrik Samuelsson (Phoenix), Mitch Moroz (Edmonton) and Edgars Kulda, who will no doubt draw some draft interest in his second year of eligibility thanks to his recent play. Kulda was named the tournament's MVP with seven points in five games and displayed a great combination of puck possession, skill and grit. With Samuelsson and Moroz bringing big power games and their own offensive gifts, the Storm just didn't have an answer for the trio.
The fact a Latvian was so integral to the Oil Kings lent some poignancy, as Edmonton carried the memory of countryman Kristian Pelss, a former Oil King who passed away in the summer of 2013. Defenseman Ben Carroll carried Pelss' sweater onto the ice once the final buzzer sounded.
"To be able to honor him in this way is so special," Moroz said. "It was 25 guys with the same goal in mind. It was a long season and we had a guardian angel. He helped us get here."
This was the first Memorial Cup title for the Oil Kings and for core players such as Reinhart, Moroz and Curtis Lazar, it was sweet redemption from two years ago when the team only won their opener at the national tournament. While there will no doubt be some serious attrition over the summer, players such as Mayo, Jarry and Brett Pollock will be back - and they've got some great experience to build on.