TULSA, OK— It is truly win or go home now.
A costly mistake, combined with a controversial goal early on threw off whatever mechanism the Oilers used to solidly defeat the Allen Americans on Friday night as the team in red snatched a 3-1 victory on Saturday night.
The total on the scoreboard matches the Allen lead in the first round series, which shifts back to Allen for what could be a deciding game four tonight at 7pm in the Allen Event Center.
Allen’s first goal was in question as former Tulsa Oiler Gary Steffest wove through traffic and shot the puck, which ringed off the iron and dropped at Oilers goalie Kevin Carr’s feet. The linesman trailing the play (not the referee), made the call of a good goal by pointing at the goal, and Steffes and his teammates began a belated celebration after the goal judge threw the switch. Carr began a vehement protest stating that the puck never entered the net, and fans seated near the goal made the same claim, but the goal judge disagreed and referee Brett Sheva, (who earlier this season disallowed two goals the Oilers had scored), confirmed the goal was good, setting off a chorus of booing.
Jamie Schaafsma added a shorthanded goal less than two minutes into the second period. Carr thwacked a puck away from Spencer Asuchuk that landed on Schaafsma’s stick. The Oilers goalie was way out of position with only Nathan Lutz to beat, and he backhanded the puck over the Oilers team captain to give the visitors a two-goal advantage early in the middle frame.
Tulsa forward Tommy Mele, recently returned from the now-defunct Oklahoma City Barons, managed to give the 3,092 Oilers fans a glimmer of hope at the 5:33 mark after the Oilers had been awarded three 5-on-3 power plays. T.J. Caig slid a puck across the Allen crease and Mele slipped a shot past the toe of Joel Rumpel to cut the Allen lead to a single goal.
After that, the Americans clamped down on defense, and despite being awarded two third period power plays the Oilers came down to the dying minutes of the contest trailing by a goal.
Bruce Ramsay elected to pull Carr in favor of the extra attacker, a maneuver in hockey that either works or it doesn’t and it didn’t on Saturday night. Gregor Hanson got a tap-in empty net goal to preserve the win for Allen and send the series back to Texas with the Americans in the driver’s seat. Nearly 100-150 fans who made the trip from Allen and were seated disturbingly close to the glass cheered wildly, waved a Texas flag and beat drums, adding insult to injury.
It is truly time for the Oilers to be uncommon men because they must win the next two games to stay alive and they have to survive the best team in the ECHL Central Division tonight in their barn and that will be no easy task. Win there and they return to Tulsa Thursday night for game six and the chance to tie the series and force game 7 back in Texas
Tickets are on sale at the BOK Center for the hopefully 7pm puck drop Thursday night.
Photos by Kevin Pyle.