TULSA, OK — Passengers. That’s the words Tulsa Oilers head coach Jason Christie used to describe his team on Friday night when he and 5,482 spectators in the BOK Center witnessed a 2-0 Oilers lead turn into a 3-2 deficit and an eventual win for their opponents, the Missouri Mavericks.
After a first period which saw Garrett Ladd and Darcy Murphy find the twine behind Missouri goaltender Josh Robinson to roar out to a 2-0 advantage at the first break, all it took was twelve minutes in the second period for the Mavericks to erase that advantage and ride a 3-2 lead all the way to the final horn.
The wheels came loose at 3:11 of the second when Darren Nowick scored on a shot that Oilers goalie, Jamie Phillips initially stopped but the ensuing rebound was accidentally knocked into his goal by one of his defenseman. Then they came completely off the bus when Jacob Doty and Sam Povorozniouk knocked two more home to tie and pull ahead.
In all, the Mavericks shelled Phillips 16 times in the middle frame while his mates only fired six shots at Missouri netminder, Josh Robinson.
It goes without saying that Christie was not pleased in his comments after the game.
“We had a lot of passengers tonight,” he said of his team’s lackluster play. “We had six shots in the second period and they were all from the blue line. You can’t play the game like that. We have to make sure we play better.”
The first period was clearly the Oilers best and Christie felt his team was lulled into a false sense of victory after the first 20 minutes.
“We were happy,” Christie said of his team’s first-period mental state. “They thought it was going to be easy. The game of hockey is not like that anymore. Those days are done. Teams are too competitive.”
Ladd got the first goal of the game and his first goal since returning from a six game hiatus on injured reserve at 12:14 of the opening period. Ladd whacked the puck in on the third chance opportunity after Robinson denied his first two attempts.
Murphy scored his fifth of the season and his first since being re-assigned from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose a week ago, slipping the disc past Robinson on his glove side at the fourteen minute mark then after that, the Tulsa sticks fell all but silent.
At that point Robinson hung a closed sign on the Mavericks net. Only one puck got through in the third period, but the apparent Tulsa goal by Ben Murphy was waved off when it was determined that it had got in the Missouri net off of a high stick.
The Oilers out-shot the Mavericks 13-3 in the final period but that attempted rally combined with two minutes of empty net hockey could not tie the game when the clock ran out.
That two minutes with Phillips on the bench had a heart stopping moment when a shot by Missouri’s Luke Juha glanced off the goalpost and sat motionless in the crease near the Oilers goal line, only to be swept safely away by a Tulsa defender.
Now, as has been the case for the last two opponents, the Oilers will load up the bus and head to Independence for the second game of the home and home series at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, which is a traditionally tough place for the Mavericks opponents, a fact not lost upon Christie.
“They are tough in their building, it is loud and exciting,” he said. “We have to be ready tomorrow.”
The next home game for Tulsa is next Wednesday night when the Oilers will host the Alaska Aces for the first time in team history. The Aces have a familiar face on board with goaltender, Kevin Carr, who was between the Oilers pipes the last two seasons and has ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors to his name already this season.
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