TULSA, OK – The Tulsa Oilers Took on the Wichita Thunder, their oldest rival, on Friday and Saturday night and it yet another situation where the home team was the victor in each game as the Thunder defeated the Oilers 5-3 on their home ice in the INTRUST Bank Arena on Friday and the Oilers defeated the Thunder 3-1 on Friday in the BOK Center.
The Oilers took on the Thunder with an affiliate-depleted roster. Three players are currently on the Manitoba Moose roster and head coach Jason Christie has been trying to plug the holes left by Darcy Murphy, who has been with Manitoba since the end of October, and this week forwards Dan DeSalvo and Kale Kessy joined Murphy late this past week.
DeSalvo had 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games with the Oilers, including the overtime goal in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Fort Wayne. Kessy recorded 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in 7 games for Tulsa. In addition, the Oilers picked up goalie Colin Stephens on an assignment from the Florida Panthers and Danick Gauthier from the Norfolk Admirals.
The weekend home-and-home series was the first time the two clubs met since the season’s opening weekend, where the Oilers walked away with a 4-3 victory.
On Friday the Thunder came out fast and furious to take a big lead, and though the Oilers mounted a late game rally it wasn’t enough.
Adam Pleskach scored two goals on Friday, and Shawn Bates added another, but the Oilers suffered a 5-3 loss despite that effort, dropping them to 2-3-0-0 on the road this season.
The game marked the first loss for Tulsa goalie Jamie Phillips thus far this season. Phillips stopped 40 of 45 Thunder shots in his first losing effect.
Returning home to the BOK Center the Oilers were keen on avenging the loss and maintaining a perfect home record. Wearing gold jerseys to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tulsa’s Golden Driller statue, the fourth largest statue in the United States, the Oilers set about their task and it didn’t begin too well.
Nick Trecapelli buried a one timer while the Thunder were enjoying a power play at 6:42 of the first period. That would be Wichita’s first, and only goal of the game as the Oilers offense came to life in the second and third period.
Axel Blomqvist scored his second goal of the season at 8:19 of the second period on a play that saw Danick Gauthier get his first point as an Oiler with an assist.
In the third, Tyson Wilson got his first goal of his professional career on a play where Pleskach drove in on Thunder goalie Drew Owsley to attempt a wraparound shot, and the Oilers swarmed the net.
“It was good timing for my first goal this season,” said Wilson, a Robert Morris University graduate who was assigned to the Oilers by the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. “I saw (Adam) Pleskach driving wide and one of our forwards changed, so I jumped into the rush to replace him,” he said. “No one picked me up on the back side. Pleskach came around the net and passed it out front and I just kind of smashed it (at the) net and it got through somehow.”
Finally, Emerson Clark backhanded a shot past Owsley to put the game out of reach with a little over five minutes to go and put the game out of reach.
The Oilers nabbed their ninth straight victory at home and their 11th overall, and what still is the best record in the entire ECHL at 11-3-0-0.
Tulsa outshot Wichita 28-20 and went 0-for-4 on the power play. Wichita’s lone goal was on the man advantage and they failed to convert their four other power play tries. Tulsa started the game slowly but steadily built momentum. Not an easy task with a heavy volume of games and affiliate call ups, something Oilers head coach Jason Christie addressed after the game.
“It was something we needed,” Christie said. “It has been a tough grind with a lot of games. We played the guys that can rebound here like that at home.
“We have had guys called up, but guys have been able to step in. I like the energy we had in the third period.”
The Oilers will remain at home through the next week as they entertain the rapid City Rush on Wednesday and Friday, and then Wichita returns to town next Sunday.