TULSA, OK—The Tulsa Oilers returned home Sunday after a disastrous 10-3 shellacking by the Missouri Mavericks on Saturday night to face the Utah Grizzlies for the second time in five days. Utah came into the contest off of a 5-3 victory over the Wichita Thunder, also on Saturday evening.
It was important that the Oilers return to their winning ways after the spanking they got from the Mavericks and they did exactly that by defeating the Grizzlies in a 3-0 shutout in front of 5,105 in the BOK Center on Sunday afternoon.
It took a while for the Oilers to get going. It was a goalie clinic through the first two periods as neither side gave up a whole lot of quality scoring opportunities. The Oilers increased their shots on goal from just five in the first period to 17 in the second, but none of those shots found the twine.
In all, nearly 42 minutes elapsed on Sunday afternoon before the first goal came off of Garrett Ladd’s stick at 1:50 of the third period. Ladd scored his second goal of the season when he scooped up a rebound and shoved it past Utah goalie Ryan Faragher to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Danick Paquette then showed great stick-handling skills four minutes later by maneuvering through the Grizzlies defenders and pulled Faragher off balance across his crease. Paquette then lifted the puck over and around the sprawled Utah netminder to increase the Oilers lead to two goals.
Finally, with Faragher pulled for the extra attacker, Kale Kessy tapped in an Adam Pleskach feed to seal the deal with a shade over two minutes remaining.
When the final horn sounded the Oilers had their ninth win overall and seventh straight home victory on the books.
It was also Oilers goaltender Jamie Phillips first shutout of his professional career. The Winnipeg Jets second round draft pick is a perfect 9-0 in nine starts in the Tulsa net thus far this season.
He was happy to get the season’s first clean sheet behind him.
“I got a monkey off my back,” he said. “It feels good to have it, but a shutout is a team effort and we had an all-around good effort today. Hopefully I can get a few more in my career.”
Phillips has a rather simple method to the madness of being a hockey goaltender.
“I just have one job, and that is to stop the puck — and that is what I try to do. I just focus on one shot at a time. I just try and keep my routine the same every game. We have an amazing group of guys. The (defense) is really doing a good job keeping everything to the outsides. Every time I give up a rebound they usually clear it. It is all those little things that chip into the overall success.”
For Oilers head coach Jason Christie, the game with Utah was a strategic challenge with a somewhat tired team that had trouble getting things in gear.
“Tonight it was a chess match the first couple of periods,” Tulsa coach Jason Christie said. “It has been four games in five nights and 10 in 17 days. That is a lot of hockey.”
“Second half of the second (period) is when we started cranking it up. When we started grinding it out, that was the difference in our game. We got a couple of chances and we had to build off of that.”
With Sunday’s win the Tulsa Oilers continue with the ECHL Central Division lead at 9-2-0-0 with 18 points, and they also have the best record in the ECHL Western Conference and, as of right now, the best record in the ECHL overall. It has been roughly 15 years since any Tulsa Oilers team has been able to say that.
Tulsa has a couple of days off before entertaining the Fort Wayne Komets for the first time since 2011 when the Oilers and Komets were members of the Central Hockey League. Then it’s off to Wichita on Friday for the start of a home-and-home set with the Thunder this weekend.