TULSA, OK—It took almost all of regulation time, but the Tulsa Oilers got things done and took a 1-0 series lead over the Denver Cutthroats on Friday night when Ryan Menei buried the puck behind Denver goaltender Kent Patterson to give the home team a 4-3 advantage with a little over a minute and a half remaining in regulation time.
The 3,200 fans in the BOK Center, who were steeling themselves for a potential overtime period by the time Menei netted the game winner, roared their approval and maintained that volume all the way to the final horn, which in itself had a bit of drama as the Cutthroats pulled Patterson for virtually the entire time. All of that occurred after a surprisingly even and focused game played by both clubs that was reflected on the score sheet.
Denver took a quick two-goal lead in quick succession in the first period off goals by Vincent Arseneau at 12:27 and Daniel Barczuk. The Oilers answered at 14:44 when Adam Pleskach dented the twine behind Patterson to cut the Denver lead to one. Then with just over two minutes remaining in the opening period Ryan Menei scored the equalizer that had the score knotted at two goals going into the first break.
Blair Macauley gave the Oilers their first lead of the playoffs at the 8:17 mark of the middle frame when he fired a shot over Patterson to make the score 3-2, but that lead departed quickly…two and a half minutes later when Troy Schwab capitalized on a breakaway attempt to once again deadlock the score at three goals each as the game entered its second intermission.
Remarkably, given the domination of Denver over Tulsa in the regular season, the two teams were almost perfectly matched in Friday’s game and that was reflected in the even scoring throughout. Indeed, the shots on goal were nearly even as well, with Tulsa only firing two more shots at the Denver net at 26-24. Neither team scored on the man-advantage.
A scary moment occurred in the third period when veteran Tulsa forward Michel Beausoleil was violently thrown into the boards by Aaron Mackenzie. The Montreal native lay on the ice for several minutes, then was helped to his feet by trainer Stuart Nichols. Beausoleil skated to the bench with some assistance but he did finish the game. The game was not an all-out war in terms of physical play but both teams held their own against each other.
The Oilers and Cutthroats will square off again on Saturday at 7:35pm in the BOK Center in game two.