The Tulsa Oilers are one game away from wrapping up what has turned out to be a very successful month of February.
A season long home-stand with one road trip faced the Oilers this month, and Tulsa has been on the winning end of all but two games thus far, one at home and one on the road.
More importantly, the Oilers have gained a tremendous amount of ground this month which puts them in a very good position in regards to the playoff chase as the 2015-16 ECHL regular season nears its conclusion. One odd thing about this long stint at home is the number of games that have gone to overtime, and the success the Oilers have had in the extra frame.
Only one of the games decided in the tiebreaker rounds needed the shootout and that capped off the most recent weekend slate of games in the BOK Center, which for the first time in this volume did not involve trading wins and losses in a series split.
On Saturday night and Sunday afternoon the Oilers hosted the Allen Americans in a two game series that literally came down to the wire, at least in Saturday night’s contest. It took a total of 64 minutes and 54 seconds to decide the game when Dan DeSalvo found daylight and slipped home the game winning goal with just six ticks on the BOK Center clock remaining.
“It was off the faceoff,” DeSalvo said after Saturday’s game, “They won the draw back to Brownie (Oilers defenseman Dennis Brown), he passed to me and I threw it at the net. It was that simple.”
DeSalvo has had a really good month of February, particularly at home. There has not been a game on the BOK Center rink where the 25-year old rookie from Bowling Green State University product hasn’t put his name on the scoresheet. With 22 points in 17 games at home, the Illinois native leads Tulsa with 45 points. DeSalvo is 16th overall in the ECHL for points, 4th among rookies in points, 3rd among rookies in assists and first among rookies with a +18 rating.
The overtime thriller was preceded by a regulation time roller coaster where the Oilers held a two goal lead at one time, only to see it evaporate and needing the extra frame to solve it. It’s been a familiar theme all month long. Only one game needed an extra tiebreaker match to end it, and that came on the following afternoon against the same team.
Scoreless through two periods, fans at the second Oilers-Americans match didn’t hear the horn in the mothership sound until near the end of the second period and, as in the case of preceding home games, Tulsa scored first.
Phil Brewer scored his 16th of the season by maneuvering through the Americans defense after a feed from Brian Nugent. The goal came at the 17:20 mark of the second period. Christophe Lalancette was credited with the secondary assist. Dan DeSalvo then added a shorthanded goal at the 6:14 mark of the third period. The goal is the rookie’s 15th of the season and came when he elected to shoot during a two-on-one situation. Connor Kucera had the only assist on the goal.
But as it was on Saturday night, the never-quitting Allen Americans rallied as goals from Vincent Arseneau and ex-Oiler Gary Steffes pulled the defending champs even to force yet another overtime session between the two clubs. This time the five extra minutes with two less skaters failed to bring resolution and it was up to a shootout to decide the game. It took eight rounds altogether in which all of Tulsa’s scoring leaders and both of Allen’s scoring leaders Costello, (who won last year’s ECHL scoring title), and Steffes (who led the ECHL in goals last seaon) all missed. Tulsa’s Axel Blomqvist, however, managed to find the twine behind Allen goaltender Joel Rumpel. After a miss on the following shot by the visitors, the Oilers emerged with a hard fought two points and a third straight win.
The games with Allen underscored Tulsa’s emerging superiority as an overtime powerhouse, at least on home ice. The Oilers have played in 11 games throughout the month of February. Of the 11, six of them have gone past 60 minutes of action—five decided in overtime and one in a shootout.
In six non-regulation outcomes, Tulsa has claimed victories in five of them. Their only overtime loss went to Quad City on February 13 at the BOK Center.
The opening game of the weekend was a 5-2 regulation win over the Evansville Icemen. The last time the Oilers and Icemen met was in 2012 when they were members of the Central Hockey League. In that game the Oilers once again roared out to a lead of two goals only to see that disappear. The Oilers responded with three unanswered marks to start the weekend in fine fashion.
Three wins this weekend pushed Tulsa closer to the 30-win mark for the season as they now stand at 28-13-5 with 61 points. They are two points away from tying the Americans for second place. The Oilers are sixth in the Western Conference with 61 points. Just one point ahead of the Tulsa Oilers is the Idaho Steelheads—the team that the Oilers play tomorrow.
Tulsa has also played three games less than Idaho. Friday, the Oilers travel to Cincinnati, the crew right below Tulsa at seventh with 57 points. This weekend the Oilers can jump the Steelheads and take a further lead from the Cyclones.
The next home game for Tulsa will be tomorrow night when the Steelheads come to town. After that it’s a long road trip visiting Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, and Missouri.