TULSA, Okla— It happened in a heartbeat.
With 3,115 fans in the BOK Center awaiting the final horn from the scoreboard signaling the beginning of overtime, Rapid City Rush defenseman David Quenneville snapped the puck through Tulsa Oilers goaltender Hayden Hawkey, completing a comeback win at literally the last second of the game.
The clock had run out to zero, but an official review of the goal determined that the goal had been scored with one and one-tenth remaining on the clock, so as almost an insult to injury, the teams reassembled at center ice for one final faceoff. The puck hit the ice, and that was that.
The Rush players celebrated a well-earned come-from-behind 6-5 victory, while the stunned Oilers players retreated to their locker rooms in defeat.
And this all occurred in the final five seconds of the game on Friday night.
Compared to a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Rush on Wednesday night, the Oilers were in control of the game two nights later but failed to fully compress the boot upon the neck of Rapid City and finish the job.
Tulsa jumped out to a 2-1 lead by the end of the first 20 minutes with the Oilers team captain Adam Pleskach and Ian McNulty scoring for the home side answered by Kevin Spinozzi on the power play. Tulsa outshot Rapid City 12-6 in the period, and although the Oilers held a one-goal lead over the Rush, the veracity of their attack scheme was very apparent.
Then, as the teams returned to the ice after intermission, instead of seeing Oilers starting goaltender Devin Williams skate to the crease, Hawkey made his way onto the ice and began scraping the paint and getting ready to assume the spot in between the pipes on the Tulsa end. This was the second time Hawkey relieved Williams in as many games. And although it did not appear to be so at the time, it ended up being a turning point in Friday’s contest.
JC Brassard scored his first goal as an Oiler followed by McNulyy’s second of the night. McNulty had a notable statistic carried through the last four games as he has scored three goals through that time frame. Four goals in 23:16 were enough to chase Rush starting goalie Brad Barone from the goal in favor of relief from David Tendick the rest of the way.
Rapid City’s offense seemed to come to life after that point as the Rush quickly narrowed the game from three goals to two on goals by Cedric Montminy and Avery Peters0n, but the Oilers reopened a two-goal advantage by periods end when Pleskach netted his second of the night in the final minute of the frame to end the middle period with Tulsa sitting at 5-3.
The Rush continued their measured, but frenzied attack in the final period leading up to the fateful final second, chipping away at the Oilers bit by bit to the point that by the 58th minute of the game the two teams were staring at extracurricular activities (overtime & shootout) to solve the game. Tyler Coulter narrowed Tulsa’s lead to one at 8:29 then Stephen Baylis tied the game at 17:01.
When it’s all said and done, the Oilers failed once again to finish what they started. It can be argued that buzzer-beating goals are a fluke…a chance every team has when survival to a full points victory are at stake. The argument could be made in this case, too. However, Friday’s loss continued a trend for Tulsa of late that has them dropping their intensity early on, then watching as their opponents keep their foot on the gas and slowly overtake them.
Tulsa has one more chance to get a win against Rapid City on Saturday night.