TULSA, OK — At some point last week after practice, the Tulsa Oilers players decided to call a players-only, closed-door meeting to discuss their situation with the 2017-18 season beginning to wind itself down.
Going into a three-game homestand with the Florida Everblades and Indy Fuel this weekend, the Oilers were smarting from losses on the road in Wichita, Kalamazoo, and Cincinnati. In fact, the winless streak had extended to five (5) games total, with a critical stretch of games against quality ECHL opponents upcoming.
Whatever was said, or agreed upon in that meeting, evidently paid off as the Oilers played what could arguably be their best hockey all season long when they took down the Everblades on two straight nights, first on Friday night 3-1, and on Saturday night in a 3-0 shutout.
The superheroes for the Oilers against Florida were forwards Garrett Ladd and Charlie Sampair, and rookie goaltender Devin Williams.
Ladd turned in a pair of three-point performances in the two-game set, which included both a shorthanded goal and a power-play tally in game two. Sampair added goals in both games to add to his already impressive second season as a pro.
Williams clean sheet on Saturday night was his third on the season.
The Oilers only let in one goal in two games, which was a redirected shot from the left side in the dying minutes of the first period on Friday night, when Stephen MacAuley tipped a Logan Roe shot past Williams to break a scoreless stalemate.
After that, it was all Tulsa for the next 40 minutes.
The Oilers bounced back and outshot Florida 10-5 in the middle frame, as Ladd tied the score at 1-1 with a power-play blast past Florida goalie Martin Ouellette from the point.
It was Ladd’s 16th goal in 28 games since joining the Oilers in early December.
Tulsa captain Adam Pleskach pocketed the game-winning goal 5:49 into the third period with a quick wrist shot from low in the right circle. Sampair tapped home an empty net goal late in the third to seal the game for Tulsa and the over 10,000 fans in the BOK Center roared their approval.
Williams locked down his cage for game two against the Everblades on Saturday night, while Ladd and Sampair ran the scoreboard as the Oilers gave last week’s #1 team in The Sin Bin Power Rankings another wake-up call.
After battling to a scoreless tie in the first 20 minutes of the contest, the Oilers struck first when Ladd beat Everblades netminder Tyler Parks on a short-handed breakaway with 48 seconds left in the second period.
Tulsa opened up a 26-16 shots advantage, generating 16 second period shots on goal, compared to Florida’s 7. Ladd ripped a shot from the top of the left circle 23 second into the third period for a power play goal that made it 2-0, before setting up Sampair for the third Oilers goal nearly four minutes later.
Williams finished the game with 26 saves in his third pro shutout.
“We competed,” Oilers head coach Rob Murray said, “That was the biggest thing. They are a good hockey team, that’s why they’re the best in the league right now.”
While his team isn’t exactly in a panic regarding the post-season at this point, the urgency is there and Murray made no bones about what his club needs to do moving forward.
“We know that we have to win as many games as we can to get to where we want to be and that’s what we have to do.” Murray continued, “We’re scoring. We scored some really good goals. I think we were opportunistic. When we had the chance to score, we scored and I think that made all the difference.”
With the victories over the Everblades, the Oilers once again rise to .500 on the season, with a record of 22-22-3-6 with 55 points.
The Oilers will finish the three-game weekend set on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Indy Fuel.