TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa Oilers have a few problems to solve as they move into their first road trip of the 2018-19 season.
By far the biggest problem is winning games in the overtime/shootout solution and the shootout problem goes back to last season.
Despite this troubling fact the Oilers are second in the ECHL Mountain Division with a 4-0-2-2 record with 12 points, one point behind the Utah Grizzlies. The upshot of that is that the Oilers have yet to suffer a loss in regulation time, but either way a loss is a loss.
In the five games, the Oilers have been forced into the extra sessions, they have emerged victorious once, a 2-1 decision over Wichita on October 27th. Otherwise, they’ve dropped every other overtime or shootout game so far this season.
Losing in OT is bad enough, but the shootout woes for the Oilers are far more troubling. Tulsa fell to the Rush once during their three-game stint in town and though they did manage to score twice in the shootout, the Rush matched them and just when it looked like the Oilers would shake off the shootout loss curse Riley Weselowski slipped the puck past Tulsa goalie Evan Fitzpatrick to give Rapid City the victory.
While it’s a dubious statistic, both goalies have a clean regulation loss record, one of the weirder aspects of the first weeks on the season for Tulsa. For Fitzpatrick, he has yet to start a game that hasn’t ended on the third period’s final horn.
Fitzpatrick has yet to complete a game that hasn’t ended in either overtime or a shootout. As it stands right now the 20-year old St. Louis Blues second-rounder has a record of 1-0-0-2 in his three starts in the Tulsa crease. The Oilers primary, Devin Williams, also hasn’t lost a game in regulation, but he owns the Oilers two overtime losses.
The problem is a vexing one for Tulsa head coach Rob Murray, who admitted earlier on this season that he had no easy answers.
“WE CAN’T SCORE IN THE SHOOTOUT, YOU KNOW, SAME OLD SAME OLD. I MEAN, WE’RE NOT EVEN CLOSE, AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. IT GOES BACK TO YOUR GUT FEELING ABOUT WHO CAN SCORE.” Murray said. “IN THE PAST, I’VE ALWAYS HAD A GUY WHO’S HAD THAT ‘SPECIAL MOVE,’ WHO WAS JUST MONEY, AND YOU KNEW WERE GOING TO SCORE. WE DON’T SEEM TO HAVE THAT DYNAMIC, OR THAT DYNAMIC GUY THAT WE CAN BANK ON TO SCORE IN THE SHOOTOUTS.”
That quote was after the Oilers dropped a game in a shootout to Idaho where the team did not score.
While the fact that the Oilers record in the OT/SO solutions is less than stellar another somewhat troubling development is that while Tulsa has outworked their opponents in their three “clean” victories the scoreboard only shows at best a one or two-goal advantage, the exception being a 4-1 win over Kansas City on October 26th. That is correctable through further team chemistry and “gelling”, which time should take care of.
Otherwise, the team has shown improvement in every game this season win or lose. Adam Pleskach, team captain and five-year veteran, leads the club with eight points (4g, 4a) while rookie Jared Thomas is close behind with seven points. Second-year goaltender Williams is 3-0-2-0, a record good enough to earn him the ECHL Goaltender of the Month honors for October, an honor he also won last season in the same month. Defensively, Terrance Amorosa has six points thus far (1g, 5a), followed by Scott Moldenhauer with five points off of assists.
At the end of the day, it’s a bottom line scenario that the Oilers opponents are realizing, and that is that unless Tulsa has a COMMANDING advantage in a contest as long as they keep it close and/or push the game into an OT or shootout, they aren’t dead yet, especially if the game is extended into penalty shots. And while every OT and shootout does gain the team points that do add up, there’s not a player or coach who wants to settle for a point when they could easily come away with two.
Ahead for Tulsa is a four-game road trip featuring three games with the Idaho Steelheads in the Centurylink Arena, then a stop in Allen to give them their first home-and-home series with the Americans.
Follow Rich Lohman on Twitter at @SinBinOilers.