TULSA, OK.—Most hockey fans look upon the guys wearing the back and white stripes (the referee and the linesmen) with a type of “respectful disdain”. They know the necessity of them, but when they affect the outcome of the game it’s a markedly different story.
In a near quarter-century of continuous professional hockey in Tulsa since 1992, there have been a number of referees who, due the questionable calls, are lucky to have escaped the Cox Business Center and the BOK Center with their skins. Because in one way or the other, they were responsible for the Tulsa Oilers misfortunes.
On Saturday night, ECHL referee Brett Sheva’s name was before the puck added to that infamous list. Sheva disallowed two apparent Tulsa goals, and a few Oilers fans unofficially added his name as an assist to at least one of the Quad City Mallards three goals as what can arguably be the WORST example of officiating in recent memory directly contributed to a 3-2 loss suffered by the Oilers in front of 5,670 in the BOK Center.
It appeared that the Oilers were going to assume the early lead in the game in the first period when, with nearly four minutes gone in the game, forward Tommy Mele came into the Mallards zone at a high rate of speed and slipped the puck underneath goalie Evan Mosher as he leapt over him in the goal crease supehero-style. Sheva waved the goal off quickly, and determined the Mele had interfered with Mosher on the scoring chance before the puck went in and instead sent Mele to the box on a goaltender interference minor penalty, (Mosher selling the penalty by appearing injured on the play helped him make the case).
Sheva then fell for an obvious Mallard dive at the 15:40 that sent Oilers captain Nathan Lutz to the box on a tripping penalty, and on the ensuing power play Mario Lamoureux, Quad City’s leading scorer, wired a wrist shot over the glove of Kevin Carr and into the upper corner of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
They would take the one goal advantage into the game’s first break. With just 1:01 burned off the clock in the first period Jeff Lee took advantage of Carr being out of position and sent a shot through traffic in front and gave the Mallards a two goal advantage. After TJ Caig was boxed for tripping, Matt Duffy ripped a shot past Carr to extend the Quad City lead to three goals, making the hill that much steeper for the home team.
Then came the second disallowed goal of the night. Moments after the Mallards pushed the score to 3-0 Dave Pszenyczny ripped a slap shot that appeared to sail into the net behind Mosher, ringing off the post and causing the goaltender’s water bottle to jump off the top of the goal. The goal judge activated the rotating lights, Pszenyczny raised his arms, the horn sounded and the Oilers fans wildly cheered, but the Mallards continued to play the puck as the rebound came out of the goal.
Sheva blew the play dead and after several minutes that included a consultation with the goal judge, waved the goal off contending that the puck never entered the net. Oilers fans erupted in boos. The game entered the second intermission with the home team staring up at a three goal Quad City lead.
Emotions boiled over in the game’s final period. Jake Obermeyer and Anthony Collins engaged in a fight minutes into the third period and instead of just giving the two combatants the customary fighting majors, Sheva decided to give five for fighting and additional ten-minute misconducts for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Jon Booras eliminated the potential three-goal shutout that Quad City was riding at 18:42 of the third period when he swatted a backhand shot in and with Carr on the bench Lutz blasted in a goal with 46 seconds left but there just wasn’t enough time left for the Oilers to tie the game and send it into overtime.
In the end, it was a combination of ridiculous officiating and the inability of the Oilers to adjust to it that cost them the game. A quick canvassing of fans who have been long time followers of the team revealed that it was the first time in memory that two goals had been waved off in the same game, and the first time in at least ten years where an official had that great of an impact on the final score.
All that aside, the weekend home-and-home saw Tulsa coming out with a split heading into yet another month-long road trip that will encompass eight games in all, traveling to Brampton (2 games), Rapid City (2), Wichita, Quad City, Allen and Missouri. It also drops them to 22-23-4 on the season with 48 points, still holding fourth place in the ECHL Central Division.