TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Oilers shook off a 26-hour bus ride and advanced to the Western Conference Finals by defeating the Idaho Steelheads 3-1 on Sunday night, winning the series 4-2.
Two goals from Adam Pleskach and a goal by Ryan Tesink were enough for Tulsa to push past the Steelheads, with Robbie Payne capitalizing on a defensive zone turnover committed by Tulsa defenseman Dylan Bredo to give the visiting club their only goal in the first period.
The win for Tulsa is their sixth at home out of seven playoff games played at the BOK Center, with the lone loss coming in the first round against Kansas City.
The key to victory for Tulsa on Sunday night was poise and control in the final 20 minutes.
“In the third period the guys played with a lot of poise,” Oilers coach Rob Murray said. “What you run into in those situations, guys get a little nervous and cause turnovers. I don’t think there was one turnover in the third period. We kept them at bay. They (Idaho) had one or two scramble chances, but other than that it was the most complete game we have played. It was great timing.”
Tulsa outlasted a physical game from Idaho, and the Steelheads held the Oilers third overall power-play unit scoreless through three man-advantage scenarios. Tulsa held fast on Idaho’s lone power-play opportunity.
In all, the Oilers have played 13 games against their two divisional opponents, with both series going into the “if necessary” games. It’s all part of the game, according to Murray.
“I have said it all along it was going to be a grind,” he said. “It is a battle every night. We won the battle and have come out of the West in the Mountain Division, a division that is as physical as you are going to get in this league.”
Next up for the Oilers will be the Western Conference Finals, where they will take on the Toledo Walleye, who defeated the Brabham Cup Champion Cincinnati Cyclones on Friday night, advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in the last three years.
Tulsa will participate in their first ever conference finals since entering the ECHL in 2014. The Oilers are in uncharted territory of sorts, because they haven’t gone this far in the postseason since 1993, when they last won a championship Central Hockey League. That year, there were only six teams and they weren’t divided into conferences.
The Oilers have home ice advantage in the Conference Finals after finishing the regular season ahead of the Walleye in the conference standings, but due to building availability, games 1 and 2 of the series will be Friday and Sunday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.