WICHITA, KS — The Tulsa Oilers are on a mission: Win or go home.
That’s basically the situation. The Oilers are in a streetfight with the Quad City Mallards to make the 2016 Kelly Cup Playoffs and time is running out. The season ends on Saturday for Tulsa and the objective…or at least what they can control…is very clear.
In the last week, they have been up to that challenge as the Oilers are on a three-game win streak that started last Saturday with a 3-2 win over Evansville and continued with a 4-1 win over Missouri and moved on to a 5-1 drubbing of the Wichita Thunder Wednesday evening in the INTRUST Bank Arena.
The Thunder are the Oilers oldest and deepest rival. Through two leagues, nearly a quarter century and 275 games the teams have squared off and this year, the Oilers will play their final two games against them. Wednesday night’s tilt started off with Tulsa drawing first blood. Midway (11:22) into the first period Christophe Lalancette fought and scored off of the pad of Thunder goaltender Sean Bonar.
The Oilers added goals on three of five shots on goal in the second period. Ben Murphy shoved in a rebound, Erik Drapluk added another as did Tom Kroshus. Wichita got their only goal of the evening when Landon Ostranski ruined the Tulsa shutout, slipping the disc behind Jussi Olkinuora in the middle frame.
The visitors then nailed the game closed two minutes into the third period when Roberts Lipsbergs found the twine behind Bonar to seal the dominant win for Tulsa.
As it has happened a number of times over the past few weeks, the game was a satisfying win for the Oilers, but the Mallards won too. The Mallards posted a 4-1 win over the Fort Wayne Komets on Wednesday night and kept the lead over Tulsa at three points. Quad City has 78 points, while the Oilers have 75.
So for all intents and purposes the playoff race for the Oilers is spiraling to the outcome of these last two games which, if they win both and the Mallards lose in regulation, they’re in.
Those crucial games for Tulsa are on Friday night in Wichita and Saturday night at home in the BOK Center. Quad City faces off with the Cincinnati Cyclones at home in the i-Wireless Center Friday and Saturday nights.
In other, less stressful news for the Oilers, forward Dan DeSalvo, currently on a professional tryout with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team on Wednesday.
DeSalvo ranks fifth among rookies with 35 assists and is seventh with 51 points in just 55 games with Tulsa. His first AHL game with Manitoba took place on March 9 where he collected an assist against the Iowa Wild. DeSalvo has earned eight points in 12 games with the Moose.
DeSalvo played college hockey at Bowling Green State University where in four years he produced 102 points in 170 contests.