WICHITA, KS—For the second straight year, the Tulsa Oilers are in the playoffs.
The Oilers traveled north to face their only remaining rival from the old Central Hockey League on Wednesday night as they came from behind to defeat the Wichita Thunder 4-2 in the InTrust Bank Arena. The win clinched the Oilers first ever trip to the ECHL’s Kelly Cup playoffs in their first year in the league. It was also the first time in 14 years that the Oilers have secured a playoff berth in two successive seasons, the last time being in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001.
After a scoreless first period Tulsa Forward Adam Pleskach put the Oilers in front with a power play strike from the top of the Thunder goal crease just 44 ticks into the second period. Then the Thunder evened the score and surged ahead off of goals from Kurtis Bartliff and Mike Wilson, and at period’s end the Oilers trailed 2-1 with 20 minutes remaining.
The Oilers then scored three unanswered goals to conclude the game, including a great individual effort from Kyle Bochek who knotted the score with a forehand-to-backhand deke that pulled Thunder goaltender Grant Rollheiser out of position to level the score at two each, then Pleskach got his second goal of the night to give the Oilers a lead they would not relinquish, and Bochek added further insurance in the dying seconds of the game with an empty net goal.
The win eliminated the Thunder from the playoffs and gave the Oilers the fourth and final playoff spot with two games remaining. They will stay in Kansas for the final game in the Thunder series on Friday night before traveling to Illinois for the final game of the season against the Quad City Mallards. Conceivably, Tulsa could improve their playoff position with wins in both games, for if the season were to have ended on Wednesday night they would be facing the ECHL Central Division champion Allen Americans in the first round.
With the win the Oilers made the playoffs in two consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001 when a Shaun Clouston coached Oilers team was eliminated in the first round. Playoff dates for the 2014-15 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs haven’t been announced as yet, but speculation indicates that they should begin sometime next week.
Stay tuned to Tulsa Today and the Tulsa Oilers website for playoff dates and ticket information.