On Sunday, the Edmonton Oil Kings captured their first Memorial Cup title since 1966; beating the favored Guelph Storm 6-3. When they laced up their skates, they weren’t just doing so for their team, nor their city, nor each other; they were also doing so with heavy hearts, dedicating their entire championship season to their fallen former teammate.
An Edmonton Oilers prospect, Kristians Pelss drown last summer in his native Latvia.
Like Pelss, Kulda hails from Riga, Latvia. In fitting fashion, he was named tournament MVP; scoring seven points in five tournament games (including three in the championship game alone). Passed over in 2013 draft, Kulda certainly increased his chances of being selected this year with his performance.
Trailing by one after the opening frame, the Oil Kings used a big second period to overcome the potent Storm attack.
“So proud of these guys,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “The effort they put into tonight to beat an unbelievable team in Guelph, it just shows you what we’ve gone through all year.”
In addition to the tally by Kulda, the team got goals from several NHL prospects, including Cody Corbett (Colorado Avalanche), Mitchell Moroz (Edmonton Oilers) and two from Henrik Samuelsson (Phoenix Coyotes); who had a five-point night. The team also got a tally from Tyler Robertson., who will be eligible for the 2015 draft.
After outscoring opponents 18-7, Guelph was undefeated in round robin play; including a 5-2 win over the Oil Kings. Certainly a disappoint end to a season that saw them accumulate a franchise-record 52 wins.
"They out-willed us," Guelph coach Scott Walker said of Edmonton. "They were big, but we usually use our speed and we weren't speedy tonight. When your let their size take advantage by not using your speed, it's tough.”
The Storm qualified for the Memorial Cup by winning the Ontario Hockey League championship. The Oil Kings were the champions of the Western Hockey League.