TULSA, Okla. – With the Stanley Cup present in the building and an enthusiastic crowd of 6,349 in attendance, the defending Mountain Division Champion Tulsa Oilers handed the Kansas City Mavericks a 5-2 defeat in their home opener at the BOK Center on Friday night.
The game was a coming-out party for head coach Rob Murray‘s new club, which was heavily stocked with hungry newcomers and seasoned ECHL veterans, and as it is every year at the first of the season, the team is still in the process of coming together but that didn’t seem to bother Murray in his appraisal of the game.
“I liked it a lot,” Murray said of the play. “Anytime at the beginning of the season with only having one exhibition game and not having our whole team in the lineup, it’s tough. We have not played as a team. As the game went on, we got better and better. The third period was our best period. We dominated the period and limited their opportunities.”
Two Oilers had multiple-point nights, with forward Deven Sideroff scoring two goals and an assist, and having the distinction of being the first goal scorer of the season for Tulsa. Team captain Adam Pleskach picked up where he left off last season, scoring the second goal of the contest and turning in an assist. Veteran Ryan Tesink also chipped in with a goal.
It was also a momentous night for one Oiler, as Jake Clifford, a product of Arizona State, let fly a laser beam of a shot from the point at the 14:12 mark of the second frame to give the Oilers a 3-2 lead. The goal was his first as a pro and became the very first goal in Oilers history to be reviewed and upheld under the new ECHL video replay regulations.
The only challenges to the Oilers came in the form of two goals coming from Mavericks Jack Walker and Darian Dziurzynski. The teams were pretty evenly matched through the opening forty minutes before the Oilers broke things open with a solid attacking third period.
For a club that only played one time prior to Friday night, they looked as if they had been playing for a lot longer.
The Oilers now move on to Saturday and their first meeting with the Allen Americans, the second game of a three-night opening weekend. The key to sustaining the momentum they culled from Friday’s game is preparation, particularly of Tulsa’s newer players.
“I think the key is getting our newer players used to a schedule like that,” Pleskach said, “I think half of us on the team are used to that and we just have get the guys who are here on AHL contracts used to playing that type of schedule, especially with three lines like we have. We play with fewer forwards in this league and the guys are getting used to that and we really are getting used to each other.” The Oilers captain said then followed it up with this notice: “I think once we get things going we’ll be a pretty dangerous team for a while.”
The Oilers will conclude their home opening weekend with their first meeting with the Rapid City Rush on Sunday afternoon.