TULSA, OK — Despite the fact the second month of the year is usually the dead of winter in Oklahoma, the Tulsa Oilers were red-hot in February as they used a home-heavy schedule to their advantage to nab eight wins in eleven games.
One of the more unique aspects of those wins is that it took longer than the allotted 60 minutes to get the job done. Six games went to extra time altogether, of which five were resolved in overtime, (4 wins and 1 loss) and one game went to a nine-round shootout that the Oilers won over the defending ECHL champion Allen Americans.
All of these things make Oilers fans start thinking about the playoffs and they do indeed have a degree of momentum headed into the ECHL’s final month of regular season competition. More importantly, the Oilers have a winning season ongoing and that is one thing that vindicates the Oilers management’s decision to hire Jason Christie as head coach. There’s still a lot of hockey yet to be played though.
Emerging from the Oiler successful February run is one line on offense, the combination of rookie Dan DeSalvo and veterans Emerson Clark and Phil Brewer. DeSalvo has a home points streak extending back to December and the entire line has been the dominant points generator for the team through the last three months. Recently however, the line has been fragmented by the calling up of Clark to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
As of this writing, the Oilers have had their winning ways cooled off somewhat as they have lost three straight to end February and begin March.
The Oilers dropped a 5-3 decision on February 23rd to Idaho and then fell to Cincinnati in a 3-0 shutout and Fort Wayne 3-1 on the road. It illustrates the Oilers are not a team that plays well on the road. With a 9-13-1 record away from Tulsa, that is an aspect of the team they need to improve on because while February was a home friendly month for the boys in blue, the rest of the schedule is light on games and that could be an Achilles heel as the rest of the season plays out.
Another thing that the Oilers are facing is that the parent clubs are needing players as their seasons and trade deadlines draw closer. In the last two to three weeks, the Oilers have seen several players return from and depart to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey league, and that can be directly attributed to a huge trade the Winnipeg Jets made in the National Hockey League recently.
Players like forward Ben Walker, who has been transient through the early to mid-points of the ECHL season is back in Manitoba, as is Axel Blomqvist who was a hero twice during February’s home stand, scoring game-winning goals. Jiri Fronk and Brennan Serville have also returned to the Moose in the last week or so and those are holes that are difficult to fill as the Oilers start visualizing a possible playoff run.
The Oilers are in Evansville on Friday to take on the Icemen in a weekend set of games and then it’s off to Missouri for a home-and-home set with the Mavericks next weekend.
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