TULSA, Okla. – It’s an obvious cliche’, but in the case of the Tulsa Oilers, what a difference a year makes.
A year ago, the Oilers were fighting for their lives in a familiar position: they had to win pretty much every game in regulation from the end of February through to season’s end. No overtime losses, no shootout losses. It was familiar territory, because it was a situation the Oilers had faced in the two previous seasons and had sadly come up short.
This year, it’s different. Very different.
It’s subjective to say this, but it can argued that the Oilers are playing their best hockey since they entered the ECHL in 2014-15 (which, by coincidence, was the last time they qualified for the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs). Solid offensive efforts from veteran Adam Pleskach, who ascended to number two on the all-time Tulsa Oilers points list in January, anchors a line that includes Ryan Tesink and Jared Thomas.
They are very much the team’s “production line”. Pleskach, the Oilers’ team captain, is currently third in the league in points (61) off of 31 goals and 30 assists. Tesink is just seven points shy of him with 54 points (23g, 31a). Thomas, the rookie of the trio, brings up the rear with 49 points (18g, 31a). On defense, the Oilers has a lot of ammunition in their camp. Dylan Bredo leads the way among Tulsa blue liners with 33 points, while veteran Steven Kaunisto follows him with 22 points.
Solid though the team is in terms of skaters, possibly the best storyline of all is the return of a veteran goaltender and his remarkable comeback run recently.
Goaltender Ian Keserich retired from the Tulsa Oilers in 2003 after a career in the minors that took him to Wichita, Elmira and Johnstown. He was last pressed into service when Oilers primary goalie Devin Williams went down with an injury. It happened again this season, and with Evan Fitzpatrick called up to San Antonio, it was time for Keserich to claim the crease.
And so began the Cinderella story. The veteran is 5-1 in his last six starts, earning the title of ECHL Goaltender of the Week for 2/25-3/3/2019. He went a perfect 3-0 this past weekend against Allen (two games) and Kansas City, stopping 84 shots on 89 faced. He currently has a 1.78 goals against average and a save percentage of .931.
The Oilers are indeed in a great position compared to last season and the season prior. There is, however, a lot of hockey left to be played, and anything can happen. Barring a cataclysmic disaster, the Oilers look to have a good seed when the tabulations for the 2019 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs are made. As of right now the Oilers magic number is three (3), which shouldn’t be hard to do if all goes well.
Following Rich Lohman on Twitter regarding all things Tulsa Oilers hockey: @SinBinOilers.