The Winnipeg ICE are in tough in their Eastern Conference Final matchup with the Edmonton Oil Kings. After splitting the first two games of the third round playoff series, the Western Hockey League’s very best team has sputtered, losing back-to-back games, putting them on the very brink of elimination.
Down three games to one in their series with Edmonton, the ICE just have not been able to gain momentum on the league’s second-best team from the 2021-22 season. Finishing with a 50-14-3-1 record through 68 games this past year, the Oil Kings ended the year behind Winnipeg (53-10-3-2) by seven points.
But playoffs are a whole other animal.
For Edmonton, the opening two rounds proved no difficulty, as the team swept both the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Red Deer Rebels 4-0 in its two seven-game series. Currently sitting at 11-1 in the postseason, the Oil Kings own the best record by a landslide.
Winnipeg, however, isn’t much further behind, but it will need a killer performance in Game 5 just to keep the season alive. Trailing 3-1 means next loss will be the final loss of the season, if it happens in the third round.
Historically, the ICE have actually not lost three games in a row at any point this past season. They lost back-to-back games on four occasions, but in each circumstance they bounced back with a victory the following game. Two of those four instances of back-to-back losses also involved overtime.
After falling to Edmonton on a brutal overtime winner on Monday, the ICE squandered a chance to knot the series back up at twos on Wednesday, falling 4-2 as the home team doubled up on the league’s best team.
Owen Pederson had two goals for Winnipeg, while Sebastian Cossa turned aside 20 of the 22 ICE shots he faced, earning the win for Edmonton. Carter Souch had two tallies for the hosts, while Justin Sourdif and Dylan Guenther each potted single strikes.
Both the ICE and Oil Kings scored with the man advantage, with each team finishing the game 1/4 on the power play. Edmonton heavily outshot Winnipeg 36-22, with Gage Alexander surrendering four goals and finishing with just 32 stops on the evening.
Having opened the series in Winnipeg, the ICE have been on the road the past two games and will need to find a way to flip the script on Friday, as the 2-3-2 playoff format means the fifth game will also be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Should Winnipeg pull out a victory, the series will return to Manitoba for games 6 and 7, if needed. Puck drop from Edmonton is set for 8:00 PM central time.