TULSA, OK—More often than not in sports, you hear that games come down to seconds. That’s exactly what happened in the Tulsa Oilers 5-4 loss to the Rapid City Rush on Thursday night.
A surprisingly large midweek crowd of 6,503 saw the home team lead most of the way through the game, and then see it all literally fall apart in the final five minutes of the third period.
In the end it was Daniel Barczuk who ruined Oilers goalie Brandon Anderson’s potential third straight win when he skated in on the Tulsa goal and flipped the puck past him with just 1:55 remaining on the BOK Center scoreboard.
The Rapid City comeback was not as dramatic as it was in December, when they overcame a three goal deficit on the BOK Center ice to come back and defeat the Oilers 5-3. In fact, it was a pretty even game all things considered. It was also physical as the eventual hero for the Rush (Barczuk)hooked up with Oilers defenseman Kevin Noble for a first period bout with less than 30 seconds gone. It set the tone for the rest of the game as it seemed every whistle would end in a scrum with pushing and shoving. In the end the teams sat a total of 42 minutes combined on 18 infractions between them.
The scoring began on the stick of the Oilers, the stick of forward Drew Fisher in fact when he jumped on a loose puck in the Rush crease that Rapid City goalie Joe Howe had initially made the save on. Howe vehemently protested the goal after it was scored, trying to tell referee Andy Thackaberry that he had been interfered with, but it was to no avail. That would be the only goal scored by either team in the game’s opening 20 minutes.
The Rush pulled even for the first time at the 1:28 mark of the second period when Rush forward Patrick Cullen whipped a shot past Anderson at 1:28 to level the contest. The Oilers were right back in scoring mode when they regained a 2-1 lead as forward Tommy Mele recorded his 14th goal of the season at 2:52 of the second period. Mele drifted across the Rush zone before rocketing the puck over the glove shoulder of Howe from just inside the blue line.
Kale Kerbashian, appearing in his third game for the Rush since being acquired from Evansville last week, responded by showing off his range with a game-tying wrist shot at 6:28 of the middle frame. Goals in Thursday’s game came in quick pairs, and the Oilers were once again jonny-on-the-spot, or more accurately Nathan on the spot, as he took a faceoff draw from Jon Booras and punched it home past Howe at 7:55 to give the Oilers their third lead of the evening at 3-2. They would ride that lead into the game’s second break.
The Rush came out of the locker room energized, chasing after every loose puck and thwarting the Oilers attempts to mount any attempt at attaining a two-goal advantage in the final 20 minutes. That was proved out at the 14:47 mark of the third period when Kevin Harvey, who began his third tour of duty with the Rush on Thursday, re-directed a Daniel Tetrault power play shot past Anderson to knot the game at 3-3. It was a little over a minute later that Rapid City assumed their first lead of the game Jesse Schultz stick-handled through traffic before roofing a backhand over Anderson for his 18th goal of the season.
The Oilers mustered their rebuttal in just 32 seconds. Shortly after crossing the Rapid City blue line, Fisher dropped a pass for Dave Pszenyczny who found an open lane down the slot and whizzed a shot past Howe for the equalizer. That would be the final goal for the home team and all that was left was Barczuk’s goal with less than two minutes remaining to complete the Rapid City comeback. The Rush scored three goals in the second half of the third period, granting them a hard-earned win.
For just the second time all season, the Oilers were defeated in regulation after carrying a lead into the third period.
The teams will meet again on Saturday night at 7:35pm in the BOK Center in the Oilers annual “Pink In The Rink Night” where they will don special pink jerseys in support of breast cancer research. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game.