TULSA, OK – Friday night was like a second opening night for the Oiler Nation this season thanks to a 41-day, 14-game road trip, and unlike the one that took place in October this one had a much better and satisfying result.
After the Tulsa Oilers and Colorado Eagles battled to a 3-3 stalemate through 48 minutes of play, Oilers defenseman Chris Joyaux ripped a slap shot from the top of the left circle and to net the game-winner over the ECHL’s hottest team and extended Tulsa’s win streak to four.
Moreover, the win over Colorado was the Oilers third straight win over a quality ECHL opponent, with the other two victories coming in the final two games of Tulsa’s season-long road trip concluded last weekend.
The game on Friday night appeared to be a potential blowout in the making through the first 25 minutes of play, as after a quick goal by the newest Tulsa Oiler Mark Bennett, the Eagles demonstrated why they have been the best team in the league when they netted three goals in sequence off the sticks of Ben Storm, Michael Joly, and Collin Bowman.
“We were kind of standing around in the first period, but after we went down 3-1 we leveled the playing field,” Oilers coach Rob Murray said. “We played a lot better from that point on. We did a lot better on our penalty kill.”
The Oilers killed off three Colorado power plays in the game on Friday night backstopped by goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who stood on his head to make saves to keep his team in the game. In all, Hildebrand made 41 stops on 44 shots.
“He made a lot of saves he found through a screen,” Murray said. “He was able to pick them out of the air. He had a really good game.”
The path the home team took to victory started off the stick of the newest Oiler when Mark Bennett, recently acquired from the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the SPHL when he got his first goal on his first shift 1:20 into the first period, picking up the puck in the slot and firing it past Colorado goaltender Joe Cannata.
Then after the Eagles surged out to a two-goal lead in the second period, Kale Kessy pulled the Oilers to within a goal, and by period’s end, Tommy Vannelli had the score even at 3-3.
After Joyaux’s rocket in the third Garrett Ladd slammed in an empty-net goal to give the Oilers the win and halting Colorado’s winning streak at seven games. Tulsa improves to 10-8-3-3 with 24 points, while the Eagles lost their fifth in regulation time but remained atop the ECHL Mountain Division at 17-5-3-0 with 37 points.
Tulsa’s coach continues to expect high performance from his players despite turning in wins against some of the ECHL’s best recently.
“It is exciting that we can compete against the best teams, but there should not be any question,” he said. “It was good to see.”
The Oilers move on to face the Allen Americans on Saturday night.
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