Self-control the name of the game as Tulsa takes 2-1 series lead.
TULSA, OK– Playoff intensity. Two words rarely spoken in Tulsa when it comes to hockey in recent years but Oilers fans are getting to know the term quite well by now. Bruce Ramsay’s young, speedy squad has taken his winning and created a relatively successful playoff season thus far.
After splitting the two games in Louisiana, the Oilers came back to Tulsa to host the Mudbugs in game 3 of their best-of-five series with the Bossier Shreveport Mudbugs. The Oilers stole a victory from the Bugs last Friday night, with defenseman Tom Dignard hammering home a Chad Costello to give Tulsa and unexpected 1-0 series lead.
It was a different story in the CenturyTel Center the following night as the Mudbugs showed why they are so hard to beat on their home ice, handing the Oilers a 6-1 drubbing in a penalty-riddled game that saw Tulsa stay mostly in the penalty box during the game, allowing the Mudbugs to connect on 3-of-7 power play opportunities. In all the Oilers total minutes in penalties.
The game ended with a lot of bad blood being displayed between the two clubs as the final horn sounded. Oilers defenseman Brennan Barker came in behind the Mudbugs goal in the dying minutes of the third period and made contact with Bossier goalie John DeCaro as he was trying to play the puck. DeCaro’s mask flew from his head and he crumpled to the rink, and this started a melee between Barker and Bossier defender Clay Plume and several other players on the ice.
After a league review the CHL determined that Barker’s hit was intent to injure and assessed the Long Sault, Ontario native with a 2-game suspension, which would put him back on the ice on Saturday night if the series returns to the CenturyTel Center.
Tuesday’s game began hard and fast for Tulsa, with Gary Steffes getting the Oilers first goal with 3:22 elapsed in the first period off assists from John Mori and Bates Battaglia. Shortly after that Oilers captain Tyler Flack laid a hard hit on Mudbug forward Shane Hart near the Oilers blue line and as a result was assessed a 5 minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct by referee Marc-Andre Lavoie thus rendering them a ship without a captain, literally.
It didn’t matter because the Oilers killed off the ensuing power play, which was a huge momentum shift . Indeed, the Oilers set the tone for the game during that five minute span as Bruce Ramsay’s team made the plays they needed to and it resonated through the rest of the game.
It took the Mudbugs a scant 30 seconds to tie the game at one at the beginning of the second period, with Shawn Limpright scoring the tally for Bossier unassisted. Then at 7:58 of the second Tulsa’s Marty Standish buried a shot shorthanded to give the Oilers the lead shorthanded. The goal was a result of a sweet feed pass from Derek Eastman in front of DeCaro. John Mori had the second assist.
Bossier responded less than two minutes later when Nick Layton found the net behind Ian Keserich at 9:32 of the second with Jim Jorgensen assisting. The period would end tied at 2-2. Even with the Mudbugs scoring twice in the period, Ian Keserich continued a solid performance, turning away 21 Bossier shots while across the way John DeCaro steered 6 of the Oilers 8 shots aside.
The hero for the Oilers would be forward Evan Kotsopoulos, who backhanded a shot past DeCaro at 6:13 to give the Oilers a 3-2 lead and eventual win. That was a bit ironic because before the game Kotsopoulos was fined an undisclosed amount of money for his actions in the second game in Bossier City on Saturday night. It was also the only 3rd period tally by either team so far in the series.
The win gave Tulsa a 2-games-to-1 advantage going into Friday night’s game, which will take place at 7:35pm in the BOK Center. If they win on Friday they will face either the Odessa Jackalopes or the Allen Americans in the Berry Conference championship. The Jacks hold a 2-1 advantage over the Americans with Allen taking tonight’s third game of their series in Odessa.
.Tickets for Friday’s Oilers playoff game are available at the BOK Box Office, Tickets.com, Tulsa area Reasor’s stores, and by calling 1-866-7BOK-CTR (866-725-5287). More information is available by calling the Oilers office at 918- 632-PUCK (7825).Photo by Kevin Pyle.