View Full Version : Oil Kings lay claim to their new throne

09-04-2007, 09:38 PM

Oil Kings lay claim to their new throne
Rookie Craig McCallum overcomes wavering-confidence issue as his hat trick lifts team over Prince George

Scott Petersen, The Edmonton Journal
Published: 1:36 am

EDMONTON -- If Craig McCallum needed a shot of confidence to know he could excel at this level, then he received a boost of the good stuff on Monday.

Confidence came in the form of a hat trick for the Western Hockey League rookie, leading the Edmonton Oil Kings to a 5-3 exhibition win over the Prince George Cougars at Servus Place. McCallum capped the win and his three-goal game by notching an empty-netter with 34.7 seconds remaining.

So for McCallum, whom Oil Kings general manager Bob Green feels can be a breakthrough performer for his team as long as the confidence builds early, he's starting to feel good about his game.

"I feel like this helps," said McCallum, an 18-year-old from Canoe Narrows, Sask. "With Bob and everyone in the organization having confidence in me, that gives me confidence. And I think going out there and scoring a hat trick gave me some added confidence."

It is just exhibition, as the reigning Saskatchewan midget hockey scoring champ went on to add. But it does feel good.

Teammate Karey Pieper put McCallum in good position for two of his goals, feeding him for the empty-netter and also making a beautiful fake shot on a two-on-one in the second period before sliding it over for McCallum to slide into the vacated net. He created his second goal on his own, driving from the corner to the net with the puck and banging home his own rebound.

Not everything he touched went in though, as he was stuffed going five-hole on a breakaway.

"He's got a great stick," said head coach Steve Pleau, watching the game from the stands. "His stick is as good as I've seen around the net. He needs to work on some aspects of his game, but he's pretty money around the net."

By other aspects, Pleau means defence. Though McCallum now has four goals in his past two games, he's also had some bad turnovers in the defensive zone.

"Those are things he's going to need to work on," said the coach. "Coming from the level he's played at, they're not used to that. They're used to getting away with some of these cutesy little things and they have to learn that you can do that around the opposition's net, but nowhere else."

Edmonton dug a 2-0 first-period hole, despite outshooting the Cougars 15-11. Goalie Brian Kaval eventually stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced, but both Evan Fuller and Alex Poulter found his weakness, pulling pucks out from behind the net and slamming them in short side.

Dalyn Flette replaced Kaval midway through the second and stopped 16 of 17 shots. Other Oil Kings goals came from J.P. Szaszkiewicz and Brenden Dowd on the power play. Jordie Deagle scored the other Cougars goal.

The Oil Kings entered the pre-season tournament with 34 players and sent 15-year-olds Mark Pysyk and Devin Balness back to midget tryouts after the game. More cuts will come as training camp wears on.

Edmonton has four exhibition games scheduled with the next coming Saturday in Okotoks against the Calgary Hitmen.

They open their season Sept. 20 at Rexall Place.

KINGS NOTES: The Cougars roster includes 19-year-old St. Albert product Jesse Dudas. The defenceman notched 29 points in 32 games last season and is a sixth-round draft choice of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006... Kamloops forward Brendan Ranford was incorrectly identified as Bill Ranford's son in Monday's story. Though he was born in Edmonton, Brendan is actually the nephew of the former Oilers star.


The Edmonton Journal 2007