TULSA, OK – The Tulsa Oilers shared a home-and-home series with their oldest rivals on Friday and Saturday nights as they approach the middle of the 2015-16 ECHL campaign.
The Oilers occupy the third place position in the ECHL Central Division, while the Thunder have been struggling all season and are bringing up the rear in fourth.
Tulsa traveled to south-central Kansas on Friday night to take on the Thunder with the suspension depleted roster courtesy of the brawl in Rapid City on January 2.
Tulsa came into the home-and-home set smarting from a 4-3 shootout loss to the division-and-league leading Missouri Mavericks on Tuesday night while the Thunder enjoyed a 3-2 shootout victory in Evansville on January 3rd.
There were only two goals scored in regulation time, the first from Oilers captain Nathan Lutz, who pounced on a faceoff and slapped it home with ten minutes gone in the first period to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
Landon Oslanski pulled the Thunder even when he notched a power play marker at virtually the same point of the second period.
The third period and overtime passed without either side weighing the scoreboard down so the game advanced to the shootout round for the second time in as many games for the Oilers and the second time in as many outings between Tulsa and Wichita. Tulsa’s Brady Ramsay provided the only goal in the shootout while Oilers goaltender Matt Grogan turned aside all three Wichita shooters giving the win to the visitors.
Tulsa’s BOK Center was the venue for the rubber match between the two teams and needless to say the Thunder were looking for revenge. The Oilers were hosting a “retro night” where they wore jerseys similar to ones worn in the late 1970’s when they were affiliates of the original Winnipeg Jets, who moved to Phoenix in 1997 and became the (now) Arizona Coyotes.
When it was all said and done it ended with the home team heavy on the scoreboard and a new season-high in shots-on-goal.
The Thunder struck first in the opening period when Christian Isackson dented the twine behind Matt Grogan, who was making his third straight start while Kevin Carr, the Oilers primary goaltender, served his final night in time out after the brawl in South Dakota a week ago. Wichita held the 1-0 lead all the way down to the final seconds of the opening frame, and that was when Emerson Clark fed the puck to Dan DeSalvo who then buried it behind Thunder starting goalie Grant Rollheiser and knot the game at one going into the first break.
The first 120 seconds of the second period were eventful for both teams.
The visitors resumed the lead when Landon Oslanski, working on a power play courtesy of a high sticking call to the Oilers Adam Pleskach, slammed the puck home with just 38 seconds elapsed of the BOK Center clock. Then a little over 40 seconds later, DeSalvo knocked home his second goal of the night to pull the Oilers even with Wichita once again.
Tulsa assumed their first lead of the contest when Dennis Brown drilled in a rebound at 5:02 of the second period to give the home team a one-goal lead and Christophe Lalancette made it 4-2, a lead that the Oilers rode into the second intermission.
Wichita came out of the locker room fast and furious in the third period and cut the lead to one goal when Kale Kerbashian, freshly acquired from Rapid City last week, snapped the puck past Grogan with a little over three minutes gone in the final period. They then pulled even when Dalton Reum fired the puck towards Grogan, who got a piece of it but not all of it. The puck caromed off the glove of the Oilers backup goalie and in.
Then the Oilers went back to work. Trying to avoid yet another overtime/shootout situation that ended the last three games for the team, it fell to Emerson Clark, who broke the tie with a goal a little under five minutes left in the game, and then the Oilers sealed the deal with an empty net goal by Phil Brewer with just under two minutes left.
When the horn sounded the Oilers had a 6-4 regulation win over Wichita, a season high 45 shots on goal, and their 16th win of the 2014-15 ECHL campaign.
From here the Oilers take to the road where they will visit some of the ECHL’s Western conference teams. They will take on Utah once and Idaho twice before two games in Missouri before they come back for four straight games with Allen from 1/26-1/31.