TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Oilers returned to the playoffs by splitting the two opening games of the Mountain Division semifinal series with the Kansas City Mavericks.
Game One: Strong Start, Slow Finish
The Oilers came out of the gate in fast and furious fashion on Thursday in game 1, jumping out to an early lead off goals by Roman Ammirato and Stephen Perfetto, and for all the world the Oilers looked as they did in the final months of the season: strong, confident and sure of themselves in their game. The Mavericks pulled to within a goal late in the period when Greg Betzold put his team on the board on the power play.
That opened the floodgates for Kansas City, who would punch in three goals in the middle fram, stealing the momentum Tulsa had built in the second period to tie and take the lead by two. Alex Dostie scored to give the Oilers the equalizer, but an ill-timed penalty and a rink malfunction threw off the Oilers rhythm. The delay gave the Mavericks some momentum, as Jared VanWormer slung in a backhand to give the Mavericks what would be their final lead of the match, which Rocco Carzo would add to with an empty net in the game’s final sweep of the clock. The Mavs would take game one by a score of 6-4.
Tough troubled by the loss, Tulsa head coach Rob Murray was confident and analytical of his club’s performance.
“I had a concern about a few guys’ game tonight,” he said. “They need to be better. We bring that up and we will be better,” Murray said. “It is a seven-game series. It is not the end of the world. I was not expecting to win this series 4-0. It was a pretty even game that could have gone either way.”
Game Two: Overtime Redemption
The Mavericks opened game two much as the Oilers had in game one, though in a slower fashion, taking a two goal lead by the game’s midway point. The first goal for Kansas City was almost a fluke as Corey Durocher sent the puck dribbling under Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams to give the visiting side a one goal advantage. Former Oiler Joey Sides made the game a lot more daunting by snapping a shot through Williams to put his team ahead by two.
Tulsa was down but not out, and poised to strike. Seven minutes into the third period, team captain Adam Pleskach did exactly that when he slammed home a rebound off Kansas City goalie Mason McDonald to narrow the Mavericks lead to one. Then, with a little short of eight minutes left, Dostie connected with Jared Thomas, who sent a laser beam one-timer through McDonald to tie the game at 2-all.
With 8:54 elapsed in the extra period, Perfetto scored the game-winner on a second effort shot that snuck under the crossbar to give the Tulsa Oilers their first playoff overtime win in nearly a quarter-century and an even series headed into three big road games in Kansas City later this week.
The win improved the outlook for Tulsa as they head out of town, and a needed boost to the club not lost on Murray.
“I felt like we played a good game from start to finish, even though we got down two goals,” Murray said. “Our penalty kill was really good tonight. I don’t know if they (Kansas City) got a shot on net in power plays. We did a great job limiting their entries. We were able to retrieve pucks and get them out real quick,” Murray commented. “Everyone played great. (Devin) Williams had a really strong game and fought through a lot of screens to see pucks and that is what is all about. He made some great saves tonight. There are about eight bodies in front of the net at all times and as a goalie, you have to fight through that.”
The Oilers now head up to Independence, Missouri for three straight games with the Mavericks, and an even series to work off of. Tulsa has the momentum coming off of the victory on Sunday, but that is virtually meaningless in playoff hockey at any level. In any case, the series will resume with game three on tomorrow night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.