TULSA, Okla. – With a come-from-behind 6-2 win over the Kansas City Mavericks on March 16, the Tulsa Oilers became the third team in the ECHL to secure a playoff berth in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs, ending a nearly four-year playoff drought.
The Oilers scored five unanswered goals in the final seven minutes of the game Saturday night, claiming the final two points they needed to earn a place in the postseason tournament. The last time the Oilers were in the playoffs was in 2015, when they fell to the eventual champion Allen Americans in the first round.
For the Oiler Nation, to say that this has been a long time coming would be a profound understatement.
The last time the Oilers raised the championship trophy in any league was in 1993, when the Oilers won the very first championship of the reborn Central Hockey League. That was 26 years ago, before many players on Tulsa’s current roster were even born. While it’s far from the drought than, say, the Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs fans suffered through, 26 years is a long time.
The present Oilers team has a lot left in the tank moving forward. Plus, they’re exuding an air of quiet confidence that extends from Head Coach Rob Murray‘s office all the way out to the bench.
Adam Pleskach is tied for first in the ECHL with 33 goals, fourth with 63 points, and tied for first with 13 power play goals. Charlie Sampair is tied for second with seven game-winning goals. Ryan Tesink is tied for 14th in points (57).
Devin Williams is second in the ECHL in goals-against average (2.21). Dylan Bredo is tied for fifth among league defensemen in assists (31) and tied for ninth in points (36). Steven Kaunisto is second among defensemen with four game-winning goals. Finally, Jared Thomas is tied for third among rookies with 54 points and second in assists (36).
Possibly the biggest confidence builder of all, though, is the unlikely comeback story of fill-in goaltender Ian Keserich. Since stepping in for the injured Devin Williams in January, Keserich has amassed a 7-2-0 record in 11 games and has made 228 saves. He went 2-0-0 last week, with a 21-save shutout in Allen on March 12. That combined with the win in Kansas City on Saturday was good enough to win the 33-year-old consecutive ECHL Goaltender Of The Week awards, the third of his career.
At the end of the day, there is jubilation in Tulsa. After three long years of frustration, the Oilers are a part of the ECHL postseason. Hopes are high for a deep playoff run, and with the Oilers playing their best hockey in recent memory, it shouldn’t result in a first round departure.