TULSA, OK—A hockey puck dropped on the ice covered floor of the BOK Center for the first time in 27 days on Friday night at the Tulsa Oilers returned home for the first time since Valentine’s Day.
The Oilers returned to action on their home ice after an eight-game road swing that saw them go 6-2-0 on the road, making that swing one of the best this season and indeed one of the best in team history. Tulsa would face Wichita once, and then play the Brampton Beast twice in a three game home stand and for the first time in the 2014-15 campaign complete a string of three victories in a row at the BOK Center.
A 4-1 victory over Wichita on Friday, along with 3-1 and 8-1 wins over the Brampton beats are all critical wins in the ECHL Central playoff race, which is now going to be decided in the 14 remaining games that Tulsa, Wichita, Rapid City and Quad City have remaining on the regular season schedule. All four teams have traded places within the third to fourth place positions in the division, and when the dust settles one of those teams will be on the outside looking in.
On Friday the Oilers took on the Wichita Thunder, and it was a solid effort and quick strikes in the final frame that gave Tulsa the win. Adam Pleskach scored a pair of goals and rookie net minder Kevin Carr recorded 35 saves to lift the Oilers over their rival for the eighth time in ten meetings. Pleskach put the Oilers out front at 11:10 of the first period when he finished off a two-on-one rush by tapping home a pass from rookie center Jeff Jubinville. With the assist, Jubinville extended his point streak to seven games.
The Oilers slacked off in the second period a little, allowing Danick Gauthier to find the equalizer for the visitors. Wichita’s leading goal-scorer, Gauthier netted his 24th goal of the season when he ripped a shot past Carr from the high slot. The Thunder outshot the Oilers 17-8 in the second period but the score remained knotted at 1-1 into the second intermission.
Tulsa then buckled down and took control of the game in the final 20 minutes. Just seconds after a Tulsa power play had expired in the third, Pleskach once again planted himself in front of the Wichita net and banged the puck through goaltender Grant Rollheiser for his second tally of the night. Pleskach moved into sole possession of second place in the ECHL goal scoring race and tied his outstanding rookie total of 33 goals.
Before the 8,225 on hand at the BOK Center had finished celebrating Pleskach’s goal, rookie winger Brady Ramsay wired a slap shot from the right wing over the glove of Rollheiser to give Tulsa a 3-1 cushion. The goals occurred just 12 seconds apart, the second-fastest strikes of the entire season. Ramsay, who assisted on Pleskach’s goal in the first period, registered his first multi-point game as an Oiler.
Carr made 10 of his 35 saves in the third period and Tommy Mele capped off the triumph with an empty net goal at 18:03. Mele became the fourth Oiler this season to reach the 20-goal plateau. The Oilers have allowed only one goal in the last six periods of hockey and moved within two points of the Thunder for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.
In addition, for the second straight contest, the Oilers were perfect on the penalty kill (3-for-3) thanks in large part to the heroics of Carr who was called upon to make several close-range stops on Thunder power plays. Tulsa snapped a three-game home losing streak and picked up two points at the BOK Center for the first time since January 30.
Saturday night saw the Brampton Beast visit the BOK Center for the first of the two final times the teams would see each other in the 2014-15 campaign. Saturday was military night, and the Oilers used soldier-like discipline and a solid goaltending performance by Kevin Carr to top the Beast 3-1 in front of 5, 824 fans.
The Beast struck first late in the first period when Dalton Thrower found the back of the net behind Carr with a little under two minutes to play in the first period. Just seconds after Brampton center Cal Wild was denied on a partial breakaway, Thrower alertly picked up the loose puck near the top of the Tulsa zone and skated into the slot where he ripped a shot through Carr.
Only 48 ticks had drained off the massive BOK Center score-clock in the middle frame when TJ Caig netted the equalizer for the home team. Caig shoveled a rebound past Beast goalie Ryan Demelo to knot the score up and become the first Oilers player to reach the 20-goal mark this season. Less than four minutes later, center Kyle Bochek cruised down the left wing and dialed up a heavy slap shot that whizzed past Demelo to give Tulsa its first lead of the night. Bochek’s fifth tally of the season put the Oilers up 2-1, a lead that would stand up throughout the remainder of the period.
An empty net goal by Tommy Mele…his second one in as many nights, sealed the surprisingly tight contest with just four seconds remaining in the third. For stopping all but one of the Beasts 32 shots Kevin Carr earned the games #1 star.
While the first game between Tulsa and Brampton was decidedly a tighter defensive contest, Sunday afternoon’s saw Tulsa open the goal scoring floodgates and dominate the Beast, defeating them resoundingly 8-1. Jeff Jubinville, who has enjoyed a stellar rookie season as a Tulsa Oiler to this point became the first Oilers player to score four goals in a game this season, notching his second professional hat trick in the process.
Jubinville, who recorded his first professional hat-trick against Brampton on January 29, began his barrage at the 6:59 mark of the opening period when he re-directed a Drew Fisher pass through Beast goalie Ryan DiMelo. Just 21 seconds after his first strike, Jubinville found the net again by tapping home another centering feed from Fisher. Justin Donati scored the only goal for the Beast when he swatted a power play rebound past Kevin Carr at 10:23 to cut the Tulsa lead in half.
With Beast forward Stephon Thome boxed for double minor high sticking and an additional minor penalty for roughing, T.J. Caig blasted a heavy slap shot past DiMelo to put the Oilers on top 3-1. Caig’s 21st goal of the season extended his point streak to five games. Before the power play expired, Jubinville completed his hat-trick by ripping a shot from the slot at 14:50 to give Tulsa a 4-1 advantage.
The onslaught continued early in the second period as Nathan Lutz somehow squeezed a sharp angle shot past DiMelo at the 2:23 mark. Less than four minutes later, a bouncing puck deflected off Jon Booras and into the Beast net to give Tulsa 6-1 lead. The five-goal advantage held until the final minute of the period when Jubinville received a pass from Caig and quickly tickled the twine for his fourth goal of the evening. The Edmonton native moved from fifth to second in the ECHL rookie scoring race and ended his best outing as a pro with four goals on six shots and a +3 rating. In the eight games against Brampton, Jubinville scored 10 goals and posted a +11 rating.
Brady Ramsay potted the only goal of the final stanza by cranking a slap shot past Dalton McGrath who replaced DiMelo at the start of the period. The Oilers scored eight times on just 29 shots to record their second-highest goal total of the season. Tulsa posted its largest margin of victory this season and outscored the Beast 39-13 over the course of the eight-game series.
Kevin Carr started the contest for the third straight time at home and fourth start overall, picked up his 25th win this season stopping 31-of-32 Brampton shots. Seven Oilers recorded multiple points and blue-liner Scott Macaulay led all players with a +4 rating. The Oilers have won nine of their last 11 games and will look to gain more ground in the playoff race in their next outing at Quad City on Wednesday night.