TULSA, OK— After a grueling, winless road trip that encompassed the last week of February and the first two weeks of March, the one thing the Tulsa Oilers hockey club needed to do was win.
Not only to salvage flagging pride, but to improve their playoff hopes which seemed so clear cut just a month ago.
Turns out that they did exactly that with a weekend slate of games against the Missouri Mavericks and Allen Americans. Two games at home and one on the road all landed in the win column for Jason Christie and his team ending the seven game malaise in fine form.
The following is a brief rundown of the weekend that was for the Tulsa Oilers.
Back to home hockey…and winning
In Friday night’s game the Oilers played a steady first period up until the period’s fifteenth minute, when on their first power play and their third shot, the Oilers put themselves on the board before the Mavericks could 14:23 into the first period.
Oilers Captain Nathan Lutz went back and forth with forward Stefan Legein before he took a shot from the blue line found its way through traffic and behind Parker Milner. It is possible after viewing the replay, that it may have gone in after being tipped by a Mavericks defender. Either way, it gave the Oilers an early lead.
Andrew Courtney tied the game in the seventh minute of the second period when he converted a Sebastien Sylvestre pass off a rebound into his 20th goal of the season. The tie lasted until the 11:35 mark of the second period when Mathieu Gagnon found the twine behind Milner to give the Oilers a lead that they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.
In fact, they would actually build on it as Phil Brewer would give Tulsa a two goal lead with just 60 seconds left in the middle frame when he scored after wrapping the puck around the goal and over Milner’s shoulder. The third frame gifted the Mavericks an early power play goal. With Legein in the box for delay of game, former Oiler Darian Dziurzynski minimized the Maverick deficit with the help of Trevor Ludwig and Rocco Carzo.
The remaining minutes of the game were tensely played, but by the time the final horn sounded, Tulsa had its first win since a 4-3 shootout victory over the Allen Americans on February 21.
Saturday night’s all right for fighting
Saturday night the Oilers hosted the Allen Americans and the violent aspect of the game — not the goal scoring — was the focal point as the hits were hard, the sticks were up and the gloves were off, just like the old days.
The first period was a scoreless affair but it did feature two heavyweight bouts. The first was between the Oilers Mathieu Gagnon and the Americans’ Reid Halabi. Hockey fights are largely a judgment call, but Halabi was the first to go to his knees so Gagnon won by KO.
Tulsa’s Justin Mansfield and Allen’s Vincent Arseneau squared off later in the period and the clear winner of that altercation was Arseneau.
Gagnon and Halabi threw down again 55 seconds into the second period. In all 40 minutes of major penalties for fighting were handed out in the game.
When it came to scoring goals the Oilers struck first. With Americans goaltender James Murray forced from his net, Phil Brewer tipped in a goal to put the home team on the board first with help from Andrew Johnston and Connor Kucera. The Tulsa lead didn’t last very long as it was Chad Costello who notched the Americans first goal tying the match.
After having two goals disallowed, the Americans finally took the lead on a Tristan King wrist shot that beat Jussi Olkuinora. Late in the third, Adam Pleskach netted the equalizer for Tulsa, tipping in a rocket slap shot from Nathan Lutz. Regulation time ended, and despite both teams having a man advantage during the overtime mini-game, neither team scored it was time for the shootout round.
Ben Walker netted the game winner in the seventh round of the shootout which turned out to be the game winner and the Oilers came away with a 3-2 win over last seasons ECHL Kelly Cup Champions. The Oilers then loaded up the bus and headed for North Central Texas for the rubber match with the red menace.
Calmer Sunday sees Tulsa’s third win in a row
It was a lot less on the violent side as the two sides faced off again Sunday afternoon. The Oilers once again found the back of the net first for the third time in as many games and this time it was off a rookies stick as he scored his first professional goal. Tom Kroshus put the Oilers up 1-0 with help from Johnston and Mathieu Brisebois.
Kroshus’ goal was followed by goals from Brady Ramsay and Adam Pleskach and by the time the dust settled the Oilers held a three goal advantage over the defending Kelly Cup Champions after twenty-one minutes of play.
Casey Pierro-Zapotel ruined Jussi’s Olkinuora’s shutout bid in the second period followed up by a goal by Arseneau. Ramsay got his second goal of the night and what turned out to be the Oilers final goal of the weekend to push Tulsa out in front by two goals, but the two goal advantage was short–lived…five seconds in fact…as former Oiler Gary Steffes put the home team within one goal of a tie, but it was not to be.
The game ended in regulation 4-3 in favor of Tulsa who nabbed six out of six points on the weekend and improved their record to 31-25-5 with 67 points. The Americans suffered their fourth loss in a row.
Elsewhere in the land of the ECHL Western Conference playoff bubble, both Tulsa and the Quad City Mallards had three games this weekend. The Oilers won all three of their games, while the Mallards won two. The Mallards had a three point advantage at the start of the weekend and now, having lost 3-1 to the Indy Fuel today that lead has shrunk to a single point at 68 points to the Oilers 67.
The meat and potatoes of all that math means that Tulsa needs to win more than they lose moving forward. Winning three games in a row…two of which were at home…pulled the rip cord for the Oilers who had been freefalling for nearly a month through seven discouraging losses.
Next up for Tulsa is a trip to West Valley, Utah for a three game set with the Grizzlies before returning home on March 29th for a two game set with the Colorado Eagles.