TULSA, OK – It’s an idiom we all learned at a young age: “Slow and steady wins the race.” That is indeed the case when the start of the 2017-18 ECHL season for the Tulsa Oilers is considered.
Things have improved in dramatic fashion for the team over the past week, which featured the home debut of a rookie goaltender with a hot hand and improvement across the board.
The Story so far…
Oilers vs. Wichita Thunder: 10/25/2017
The week for the Oilers began with a return to the BOK Center on October 25th to face the Wichita Thunder, a rival that Tulsa has a history that reaches back a quarter-century to the heady days of the Central Hockey League.
In that game, the Oilers were out of sync, and couldn’t generate much offense, which resulted in the Thunder taking charge of the contest in the first period and not looking back. It was only a third-period goal by Evan Richardson that ruined a shutout bid for the visitors.
Head coach Rob Murray replaced starting goaltender Jake Hildebrand with his rookie backup Devin Williams at the start of the third period after Hildebrand had surrendered three goals in the opening two frames.
Williams closed the Oilers cage for the final period and the rookie stopped four Thunder shots and didn’t allow a goal. The game extended the Oilers losing streak to three straight and the Thunder’s win streak to five (at the time).
Oilers vs. Allen Americans: 10/27-29, 2017 (Three games)
After a day off, Tulsa welcomed the Allen Americans to the Oil Capitol for the first 3-in-3 split series of the season, where the Oilers would take on Allen twice at the BOK Center on Friday and Saturday nights, finishing up with a Sunday afternoon “rubber match” in the Allen Event Center.
One of the less-than-ideal statistics for the Oilers at home going into the first contest with Allen was the fact that in both home games thus far, (Kansas City and Wichita), it took two periods to start scoring goals.
That trend was eliminated in the first period of Friday’s game when Dylan Hubbs knocked in a rebound to give his club a 1-0 lead. The Americans offered stout resistance throughout the game, but two special teams breakdowns that resulted in shorthanded goals turned out to crucial.
Charlie Sampair raced in on a short-handed breakaway and beat Allen goaltender Stephon Williams to make it 3-1, and after the Americans answered that with a goal, Conner Bleackley gave Tulsa a 4-2 lead late in the third period with the second Oilers short-handed goal of the night.
The visitors came back with a goal to decrease their deficit to a goal, but by games end they were light on the scoreboard and Tulsa had the delayed first victory at home.
Game two saw a defensive battle between the Oilers and the Americans, with a scoreless stalemate lasting over two and a half periods before Oilers veteran forward Adam Pleskach slung the puck at the Allen net from an impossible angle and somehow it wound up in the back of it.
Kale Kessy tapped the puck in an empty Americans net in the dying seconds of the game to seal the 2-0 victory, but as it is in all shutouts the story of the game was the superb goaltending of rookie Devin Williams. Williams, a 22-year old rookie who played college hockey at Acadia University last season, made 45 stops in his first professional shutout.
The final game of the week saw the Oilers in Texas for the last game and once again saw the Oilers special teams strike in shorthanded mode.
After Tommy Vannelli scored on a wrist shot to give the visitors a 1-0 lead, Conner Bleackley tallied his league-leading third short-handed goal to give Tulsa a 2-0 advantage. It was a back-and-forth contest through the balance of the game with the Americans scoring in the dying seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime.
Adam Pleskach game the Oilers a hard-earned OT win when he netted the game-winner with just 22 seconds before a shootout to give Tulsa their third straight victory over the Americans in as many nights and 6 out of 6 points on the weekend.
The Oilers once again have three games this coming weekend, two home games on Friday & Saturday against the Utah Grizzlies and another afternoon game in Allen on Sunday.
Oil Field Trends:
• Conner Bleackley leads the league with three short-handed goals, after scoring two over
• Dmitrii Sergeev is tied for first among ECHL defensemen with six assists.
• Charlie Sampair recorded a point (2g, 1a) in all three games against Allen over the
• Tulsa registered 50 shots for the first time Sunday and has reached at least 30 shots in all but one game this season.
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