WEST VALLEY, UT – Jussi Olkinuora was a flurry of arms and legs in the net for the Tulsa Oilers on Wednesday night. The 25-year old Helsinki, Finland native stopped 43 shots as the Oilers defeated the Utah Grizzlies 3-2 in a shootout on the road in West Valley, Utah.
The last time the Oilers were in the Salt Lake suburb in January, the Grizzles handed them a 5-2 loss. When Tulsa hosted Utah they split the pair of home games in the BOK Center by identical scores of 3-1 (each a win and a loss). Previous to that the two teams faced off in the BOK Center in early December where the Oilers defeated the Grizzlies in their first ever meeting 5-1, a win that earned Oilers head coach Jason Christie the title of winningest coach in the ECHL.
The Grizzlies took command of the game by two goals. The first coming on a backhanded shot by Barry Almeida at 13:12 of the first period, followed by a second period power play goal by Ryan Hayes.
From there on out it was all Tulsa. Power plays were the M.O. of the second period and the Oilers knocked in a pair of man-advantage markers to pull even. Christophe Lalancette inked the first one and Phil “Automatic” Brewer got the second. The deadlock held through the remainder of the second period and through overtime, where for the second time in as many games, the Oilers and their opponent were headed to the shootout.
Olkinuora closed down his cage and did not allow the Grizzlies shooters a goal, while Brady Ramsay and Adam Pleskach solved Utah goalie Ryan Faragher to end the game on penalty shots.
Shooting for the Oilers was alarmingly anorexic, as they only managed to toss 14 shots at Faragher while Olkinuora was in a shooting gallery on his side of the ice facing 45 shots. Like he has done so many times in the past — or at least since he’s had to step in for Tulsa’s injured goalie workhorse Kevin Carr recently — Olkuinora managed to keep the Oilers in the game when his defense could not rise to the challenge.
The game was a special night for Oilers captain Nathan Lutz, who was playing in his 900th game as a professional. His team helped add to the celebration in fine form, winning their fourth straight game and snapping a seven-game road losing streak.
Tulsa edged their way back into the Western Conference playoff race with the win, climbing over the Quad City Mallards for the eighth and final playoff spot. They are now 32-25-5 with 10 games to go. They also have a game in hand over the Mallards, having played 62 games to Quad City’s 63.
The Oilers will play the Grizzlies on Friday and Saturday. During the next week, Quad City will host the Evansville Icemen and travel to Wichita for games on Friday and Tuesday nights, so it is crucial the Oilers get points — preferably wins– in the next two games in Utah.
The next time Tulsa will be in the BOK Center is next Tuesday and Wednesday when they host the Colorado Eagles, a team that has not seen action in Tulsa since 2013.