The Tulsa Oilers kick their young season into high gear this weekend with two games against the Wichita Thunder.
The Thunder have always been a huge rival of the Tulsa club, but this season with the absence of the Oklahoma City team, they take on the moniker of “arch” rival. It should be a great weekend as the two teams will share a home-and-home series beginning tonight in Wichita at the Kansas Coliseum and returning home for the Oilers home opener in the BOK Center.
The Oilers are looking to build on a opening night come from behind victory over the Mississippi Riverkings last weekend. After going down 2 goals in the first period, Tulsa erupted on a 5-goal tear led by the hat trick scored by Oilers centerman Rob Hisey, eventually claiming a 6-3 win over a team that made the semi-finals in last season’s playoffs. The win has given Oilers fans a chance to feel cautiously optimistic for the first time in a long while, and it sets the scene of a great opening night at home.
Coach Bruce Ramsay remarked about how his team’s overall chemistry has developed so far. “It looks good, on and off the ice.” he said. “On the ice is probably going to be the tougher one because we’re so new and with hockey you always use the term ‘empathy’ and that refers to knowing where somebody is on the ice and that’s going to take a little time to develop as the guys play more games and get used to playing together. It‘s a process.”
“Off the ice things are gelling great,” Ramsay said, “the guys seem to be getting along, they care about each other, and that’s one of the attributes I always talk about in that you are playing for the guy beside you and that’s important; I do believe we have that in our locker room and on ice we have a lot of skill, a lot of speed that I think is going to carry us forward throughout the season and we are going to be the kind of team that’s going to improve as time goes on this season.”
When Ramsay was introduced as coach he spoke of toughness being a big part of his gameplan, and he’s seeing that come around. “We’re tough, but we’re TEAM tough,” he stated, “Are we ‘killer’ tough? Probably not. But the best teams in the league were not killer tough. They were the best teams in the league because they had good hockey teams who cared about each other and that’s what we’re going to be–we’re gritty, we’re not scared and we’re in your face and that’s the way we’ve got to be.”
Leadership is a team effort on the Tulsa Oilers squad this season. “We’ve got a lot of veteran leaders throughout,” Ramsay said, “Marty Standish, Rick Kozak, Jake Riddle, Aaron Davis, Michel Beausoleil. We have a lot of guys who played professionally before and know what it takes to win. They know what sacrifices you have to make to be successful and I think we’re more about being a team leadership situation as opposed to having one player as our go-to guy.”
Coach Ramsay looked ahead to the upcoming weekend against Wichita, and the games are bound to be interesting as the Thunder have lost both of the games they’ve played at home. “They are going to be hungry, and they are going to be biting at the bit. It’s not a lot of fun when you lose your first two games at home,” he said, “We’re going to have to go in there and play with intelligence, we’ve got to be smart and they are going to have to have a strong work ethic and we are going to have to bring that relentless play that got us the win in the opening game.”
The Oilers face off the Kansas Coliseum against the Thunder at 7:05 pm and return home on Saturday night at 7:35 pm to face them again in the BOK Center. Tickets are available for Saturday night’s match-up at all Reasors Food Warehouse locations, the Oilers office on 46th street between Mingo and Memorial, and the BOK Center box office. Friday’s game will be broadcast over the internet on the Oilers website tulsaoilers.com with Steve McCall providing the play-by-play.