TULSA, OK – When you’re on any professional sports team, proving your worth when you’re a rookie is a continual process throughout your first season with your team.
It’s a hazing of sorts, and any chance you get to show that you belong, you take like it’s your last and that’s precisely what Tulsa Oilers rookie Devin Williams did on Saturday against the Allen Americans
Williams made some great strides towards shedding his rookie status when he blanked the Americans 2-0 in front of 4,608 fans in Tulsa Saturday night when he made 45-saves, some of which left head coach Rob Murray stunned at the end of the game.
“Williams was awesome,” Murray said. “He played an unbelievable game. Some of the stops he made late in the game were great, whether he knew it or not.”
Williams, who has been in goal for every Oilers victory thus far this season, was quick to credit the defense in front of him for their help in his first shutout as a professional.
“I thought the guys really played good in front of me and made it easy on me,” he said. “It is a whirlwind. I am blessed to be in the position I am in. I can’t thank the team enough.”
Turning pro has been a learning curve for the 24-year old rookie from Saginaw, Michigan, but he is doing a good job adapting to the faster pace of the ECHL game. Intelligence, as well as speed, is the name of the game.
‘The game is quicker, but the big difference is how smart the guys are,” Williams said about the pro game. “The higher you move up, I think, the smarter the guys are.
“I have been putting in a lot of work in practice to make sure I am ready for the game.”
The game on Saturday night was a defensive stalemate until veteran forward Adam Pleskach netted a goal from an impossible angle early in the third period. The Oilers captain broke the scoreless deadlock 6:16 into the third period when he threw a puck to the net from the corner that fooled the Allen goaltender. The only other goal came from Kale Kessy on an empty net as the final seconds of the game ticked away.
It was a good win, but one that Murray still sees room to improve upon.
“We were not nearly as good as we were last night and in turn maybe (Allen) was better than last night, but a win is a win,” Murray said.
Getting the puck to the net is the key, Murray says because he constantly tells his players that doing that can make good things happen.
“The goal by Pleskach is a good example,” Murray said. “When you throw the puck to the net, you never know. You could not find a better example than his goal.”
Pleskach flipped the disc at the Allen goal from near the dashers on the low right side, and somehow it banked into the net. Americans goalie Stefon Williams, in his second straight start for Allen, made 27 saves off 28 Oilers shots in the game, and both clubs were 0-for-3 on the power play.
With the win, the Oilers improve to 3-3-0-1 on the season while Allen falls to 3-2-1-0. Each team has 7 points in the young season so far. Tulsa now travels to the Allen Event Center for the rubber match on Sunday afternoon at the Allen Event Center.