The Oil Kings took a 3-1 series lead in Washington on Wednesday thanks to a dramatic game-winning goal scored by defenceman Logan Dowhaniuk with just over four seconds left.
“That was unbelievable what he did last night,” Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer said of Dowhaniuk scoring while speaking to Reid Wilkins of 630 CHED’s Inside Sports on Thursday night. “He’s been very good for us throughout the playoffs.
“He’s been a big physical guy on our blue line — this series especially. He’s a big part of our group. He goes against top lines, shutting them down.”
While shutting down other teams’ scorers, Dowhaniuk has also contributed offensively during Edmonton’s 2022 playoff run, chipping in three goals and eight assists in 17 games.
Lauer said his coaching style is not normally to just “protect the lead or to get into overtime, but last night I was kind of thinking that way a little bit.” He said that was because it was not lost on him Wednesday night that his team was tired, playing back-to-back nights and “because of the way we were playing a little bit and some of the minutes some of our bigger guys have played” due to some players being out with injuries.
With the score 2-2 late in Wednesday’s game, he was faced with a decision.
“They took an icing there and I was going to take a timeout,” he said.
But assistant coach Luke Pierce told Lauer he thought Seattle’s players looked tired and so the head coach sent a fresh line on the ice and Dowhaniuk then scored, giving the team a 3-2 win.
“It worked out for us,” Lauer said.
“It was a very exciting time for sure.”
Earlier in the game, the Oil Kings faced some scary moments and lost forward Brendan Kuny after he was hit by a Thunderbirds player before being taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Lauer said Kuny was later released from hospital and has a concussion and will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis for now. He said he saw Kuny earlier on Thursday.
“He was much better,” Lauer noted. “It was good to see him walking around after the game.
“You never want to see a teammate leaving the ice on a stretcher.”
The Oil Kings were also missing goal-scorer Dylan Guenther on Wednesday. Lauer said his injury is also considered day to day right now.
“Next man up,” Lauer said of the mentality his players have taken as some of their teammates have been injured forcing others to log extra minutes. “(We have) talked a lot about going through fatigue and feeling fatigued and understanding that it’s going to happen with junior hockey and the travel and stuff like that.
“But it’s all about finding your way through that fatigue… I thought our guys did a really good job.”
Former Oil Kings forward Trey Fix-Wolansky, who was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2018 NHL Draft, is spending his off-season in Edmonton, which is where he is from.
While speaking on Inside Sports Thursday night, the 23-year-old said he is following his former junior team’s run and is impressed.
“The way that they’re playing this year, you can see that they’re playing as a team and they play the game for each other,” Fix-Wolansky said. “They don’t play it for the name on the back, they’re playing for the crest on the front.”
Fix-Wolansky indicated he believes anyone who goes to Rogers Place for Game 5 on Saturday will be glad they did.
“It’s going to be a great game,” he said.
The 2022 playoffs have seen the Oil Kings reach the WHL’s final for the fourth time in modern franchise history and for the first time since winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup and Memorial Cup in 2014.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.