TULSA, OK– The Tulsa Oilers returned home to the confines of the BOK Center on Friday and Saturday night to take on the Rapid City Rush and the Missouri Mavericks. It was the first meeting of the season for Tulsa and Rapid City, and the third meeting between the Oilers and the Mavericks. The Oilers bested the Rush 3-2-0 last season and they are winless against Missouri at home this season thus far.
Tulsa 6, Rapid City 4; Friday November 14th
Starting fast has always been a good thing, and the Tulsa Oilers proved that in front of 5.961 in the BOK Center on Friday night as they built an early lead over the Rapid City Rush and never looked back. After the Oilers had killed off a 5-on-3 man advantage after a few ill-timed penalties levelled against Dave Pszenyczny (double minor for high sticking) and Nathan Lutz (Roughing), the home team erupted for three goals. Jon Booras, Luke Judson and Drew Fisher scored goals in the last half of the first period to give the Oilers and impressive 3-0 lead and chase the Rapid City starting goalie from the Rush goal cage.
After the Rush finally made a dent in the scoreboard nearly two minutes into the second period, Tulsa took a 4-1 lead off the stick of Tommy Mele, who sent the puck through the legs of relief goalie Danny Battochio. Boras got his second goal of the game a short time later when he tapped home a Luke Judson pass to extend the Oilers lead to four goals at the 7:16 mark of the middle frame.
Former Oiler Sean Erickson closed the gap five minutes later, and the period would end with the home team enjoying a 5-2 advantage.
Another former Oiler, Dylan Clark, made the game a two-goal affair with a power play mark that snapped a streak of 22 straight penalty kills for the Oilers with 7:03 elapsed in the third period, but that did not take the steam out of Tulsa’s stride. Six minutes later, Kyle O’Kane restored the Oilers three-goal lead when he knocked in his own rebound to give the Oilers a 6-3 advantage. Daniel Barczuk’s goal at 17:28 gave the Rush a glimmer of hope, but the Oilers were able to coast to the finish line and take the first of 11 meetings this season between the two clubs.
The Oilers improved to 3-1-1 on home ice and 5-3-1 overall in the ECHL Central Division. T.J. Caig submitted two assists and Jon Booras registered his sixth multi-point outing this season. Goalie Kevin Carr turned away 33 of 37 shots for Tulsa. Robin Soudek was the high pint for the Rush with a goal and two assists.
The Oilers are tied for first place atop the ECHL Central with Rapid City, with each club holding eleven points in the standings.
Missouri 7, Tulsa 4; November 15th
What was clicking so right for Tulsa in Friday night’s game against Rapid City decided not to show up on Saturday as the Missouri Mavericks came back to the BOK Center and delivered a 7-4 knockout in front of a crowd of 4,502. The Mavericks have had complete control of the Oilers dating back to last season, where Missouri won all four games when they visited the Mother Ship, and they won both contests thus far this season.
The Mavericks took the early lead two minutes into the game when a simple wrist shot from Chris Crane fell behind Tulsa starting goaltender Brady Hjelle to give the Mavericks a lead they would never relinquish. He would add another two minutes later, prompting Oilers coach Bruce Ramsay to pull Hjelle in favor of workhorse Kevin Carr just four minutes into the game. It was enough to right the ship through the end of the first 20 minutes as Charles LaChance slammed the puck home at 16:06 of the first to pull the Oilers to within a goal.
Then the second period happened. And it was all Missouri.
The Mavs scored three times in the middle frame to extend their lead to 5-1 on goals by Jared Brown, Lindsay Sparks and Sebastien Thinel. The only bright spot for the home team was the first goal of the 2014-15 season from Steve Mele, who found the twine with two minutes and change, but as the third period loomed large before them, the Oilers had a very steep hill to climb.
It took half a period before the Oilers offense came to life. When it did, Adam Pleskach scored his 10th goal of the season at 11:45 of the period and Steve Mele got his second of the night to pull the Missouri advantage back to a single goal at 14:28. Just when the thought of a comeback for the home team seemed possible, the Maverick re-asserted their dominance and scored two goals late as Brandon Hynes and Martin Lee slammed the door shut for the visitors.
What happened on Saturday night was a typical problem for the Oilers, where they allowed their opponent to mount a lead and then having to battle back. In addition, Carr managed to come in and prevent a complete blowout of the Oilers in the game, the lack of a solid backup goalie is going to be a problem going forward for Tulsa. Combined the two netminders managed to make 24 saves on 31 Missouri shots while their counterpart across the rink gained the win on 26 saves on 20 Oilers shots.
Tulsa falls to 5-4-1 on the year so far and if there is anything good to say in light of the seventh straight loss to Missouri is that the Oilers remain tied with Rapid City for first place in the ECHL Central Division. The next home game for Tulsa is this Tuesday night, when Wichita comes to the BOK Center for a 7:05pm faceoff.