TULSA, OK—It’s hard to imagine that the Tulsa Oilers were once one of the ECHL’s best teams. That was a long time ago and the fortunes of the team have made a very abrupt 180 degree turn.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Oilers have gone 5-14-1 and are clinging to the fourth and final playoff spot in the ECHL Central Division, which is a far cry from October, where the team raced out to 10 straight victories to begin the season.
The situation did not improve on Saturday night as the Oilers fell to the Indy Fuel 6-2 in front of 5,724 in the BOK Center. It was a familiar refrain for the Oilers against the Fuel, they got behind early, and failed to gain enough traction to overcome the deficit.
Adding insult to injury, it was their fourth straight loss and second consecutive loss to a team with a losing record, the other one being Friday’s loss to the Rapid City Rush. In fact, the Fuel ended an eight-game losing streak with the solid victory against Tulsa on Saturday.
A lot of the problem the Oilers have is making poor decisions defensively, something that head coach Jason Christie pointed out after the game.
“It is is frustrating, big-time,” he said. “I have not seen anything like this. We have a 4-on-2 and we are throwing the puck inside the blue line into a guy’s chest.”
“He knocks it down and the next thing you know, they score. It is just breaks like that.”
Though disheartened by the losing streak, the coach knows that if the team digs deep they can pull out of the dive.
“It is fixable,” Christie said. “It is the effort of some guys. That is what it boils down to. I know they have to hate this. If they come out that way, they will have success. But if you get through it just to get through it, it does not work that way.”
“They have to find some energy. They are making bad decisions at the wrong times.”
The Fuel had four goals on the board, two of them on the power play, and 45 minutes of game time elapsed before the Oilers scored. Indy scored their first three goals with only 10 shots on Tulsa goalie Colin Stevens, while the Oilers took nearly 20 shots before they found the back of the net.
That’s when Shawn Bates ruined the shutout bid for Indy goaltender Eric Levine when he fired the puck in from the slot in the third period’s sixth minute. It was Bates’ second goal in as many games
Unfortunately, the Fuel responded by turning around 31 seconds later when Raphael Corriveau made it 5-1 on a transition rush.
Tyson Fawcett scored for the Oilers to cut the lead to three, but the Fuel’s Kenny Ryan put in an empty net goal to give the visitors the victory.
Frustrations boiled over in the final 90 seconds of the game, resulting in a melee involving several players. In all, 106 minutes of penalties were distributed between the two clubs as the game rode on to the final horn.
The Oilers fell to 24-26-4-0 and Indy improved to 15-33-2-2. As mentioned before Tulsa is still hanging on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the ECHL central division, based in large part to the Kalamazoo Wings losing 5-4 to Wheeling.
Tulsa will face longtime rival Wichita at 4:05 this afternoon.
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