TULSA, OK—The Tulsa Oilers took on the Missouri Mavericks in a pair of games to close out the home side of the regular season on Friday and Saturday night and the two different teams that made up the Oilers this season played in each game.
The team that showed fire and intensity came to play in Friday night and defeated the Mavs 6-4 on Friday night in front of a record crowd of nearly 13,000 fans, and the team that was defense optional and going through the motions were handed a well-deserved 5-3 loss on Saturday night. So it was a yin-yang weekend for the Demons on Denver.
A record crowd of 12,784 was on hand for game one, and the electric atmosphere in the BOK Center did its part to energize the home team as the Oiler quickly roared out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on goals from Brady Ramsay, TJ Caig, Adam Pleskach and Phil Brewer. It was a phenomenal display of what the Oilers have been capable of all season long, scoring four goals before ten minutes had elapsed.
In the 17th minute, the ride came to an abrupt halt after Tulsa’s starting goaltender Kevin Carr made a save, he sustained a deep cut from a skate blade on his right leg. Apparently he had either been run into or stepped on as he froze the puck for a face off. He hurriedly skated off the ice, replaced by backup Brandon Anderson. The cut Carr sustained required some 21 stitches to close and he would not return.
Missouri turned on its lagging offensive attack in the middle period and it paid dividends almost immediately. Only 100 seconds into the second period, the Missouri comeback effort began with a snap shot from Brett Stovin that beat Brandon Anderson and put the visitors on the board. After penalties to Nathan Lutz and Brady Ramsay gave the Mavs’ a 5-on-3 power play, Courtney buried a loose puck in the Tulsa crease at 15:02 to cut the Oilers’ lead down to two goals. On the ensuing 5-on-4 advantage, Ludwig Karlsson connected from close range and within the span of 41 seconds, the Mavericks had trimmed the deficit to a single goal.
Tulsa outshot Missouri 16-5 in the first period but the Mavericks turned the tables in the second with a decisive 18-5 shot advantage. When the horn sounded for the second period instead of seeing the Mavericks in the distance in their rear view mirror, the Mavs were right on their bumper.
The Oilers reclaimed a two-goal advantage early on in the second period. At the 1:45 mark of the third with his team back on the power play, Pleskach drew the attention of the Missouri defenders and slid a pass to Scott Macaulay who had snuck down from the blue line. Macaulay’s wrist shot found the top corner of the cage and the Oilers took a 5-3 lead.
Missouri answered just a half-minute later when Karlsson found the twine behind Anderson to close the gap to a single goal. Then the hero of the night for Tulsa, Phil Brewer, provided the game winner for the home team where he stuffed home a rebound of a Kyle Bochek shot to give the Oilers their final two goal cushion that they rode through the final horn.
Brewer’s two goal night was good enough to earn him the game’s #1 star in only his seventh game as a professional. Fourteen of Brandon Anderson’s 29 saves in the game helped him take his team to the first victory over Missouri at home in two years.
Game two was not such a great performance from the Oilers as it was on the previous night.
After defeating the Mavericks on Friday night the Oilers put themselves in a position where they could conceivably clinch their first ever playoff berth in their new league with a win on Saturday night and a loss by their oldest rival Wichita, who was playing the hapless Brampton Beast at home on the same night.
With a loss by the Thunder seemingly unlikely, a second win over Missouri in as many nights would make things decidedly easier as the regular season drew to a close. Sadly, whatever fire the team had on Friday night did not burn as brightly the following night, and the Mavs handed the Oilers a 5-3 loss in front of 7,255 in the BOK Center.
Missouri struck first when Andrew Courtney ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Brandon Anderson to give the Mavs an early 1-0 lead with a little over three minutes gone in the opening period. The Oilers leveled the contest at 12:34 thanks to a Jeff Jubinville slap shot from the bottom of the right circle that banked off the leg Mavs’ goalie Brandon Jaeger and into the net. Then the home team moved ahead 2-1 when Stephen Perfetto left the puck on a drop pass for Jon Booras just over the blue line, who raced in on Jaeger and gave the Oilers a lead on a shorthanded goal at 15:15 of the first and they took that lead into the game’s first break.
The quick hands of Courtney pulled Missouri even at 11:07 of the second frame. A bouncing puck in the high slot was batted home by Courtney for his second tally of the evening. Courtney, who has appeared in every game this season for the Mavs, broke his own franchise record for goals in a single season with his 35th strike of the year. Three minutes after Courtney’s record-setting goal, the Mavericks re-gained the lead on a shorthanded marker from Tyler Currier. After his initial shot floated high over the Tulsa net, Currier received a pass from Thinel and buried his second chance to give Missouri a 3-2 advantage.
Ludwig Karlsson gave the Mavericks a two goal cushion eleven minutes into the final frame when he fired the biscuit past Anderson for his second goal in as many games. Jubinville breathed life and hope into the Oilers in the game’s final minute when he stuffed the puck in underneath Jaeger to narrow the Missouri lead to a single goal, but it was quickly erased when Sebastien Thinel skated the puck in on the Oilers vacant net and sealed Missouri’s eighth win in ten games over the Oilers.
So while the groaning and moaning was plentiful in the BOK Center, three hours away in downtown Wichita the Thunder shellacked Brampton 5-1, thus denying the Oilers the ability to clinch the playoffs on Saturday night. In addition, the Quad City Mallards clinched their spot in the dance on Saturday as well, so essentially, the Oilers post season is in their hands when they travel to Wichita for a Tuesday night tilt for the fourth and final playoff berth.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will face Allen in the first round of the playoffs if they clinch. But that’s another story.