Surging Oilers make their case with big wins

The Tulsa Oilers have managed to figure out how important it is to win and they have four straight wins at home under their belt to prove it, four out of the last five games in all and good considering wins this season have been few and far between.

Since January 22nd, with the exception of a 5-0 drubbing in Missouri against the Mavericks, the Oilers have posted key wins against some of the Central Hockey League’s top teams and one of the teams they are chasing to claim the 8th and final playoff position.

The Oilers took on the Arizona Sundogs on January 22nd and posted a 4-2 victory.

Goals from Ben Gordon, Ryan Barlock, Michel Beausoleil and Kyle OKane bested the Sundogs in regulation time.  Unfortunately, the winning spirit could not be sustained into the next game, where the Missouri Mavericks gave the Oilers a solid 5-0 beating at home in Independence.  The best part of that game for Tulsa was that goaltender Dan Clarke stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief of starter Shane Madalora, who turned aside 28 of 33 shots and allowing the five goals.

On January 29th the Denver Cutthroats came to town for their first-ever meeting with Tulsa, and their only visit to the BOK Center this season.

Tulsa held a 3-1 lead for two periods in that contest on goals from Ryan Menei and Drew Fisher.  Fisher, a rookie who hails from International Falls, Minnesota, has been on a hot streak of late, notching his first professional hat trick on January 20th in a 5-4 loss against the Wichita Thunder at home, and his name has appeared in the goal or assist column in the games since then.

The Cutthroats evened the score in the third period on goals by Troy Schwab and Brad Smyth and the game went into the extra session.  When the five-minute overtime concluded the teams entered the shootout where Oilers goalie Shane Madalora stopped four Denver shooters in all and Tulsa’s Michel Beausoleil and Ryan Menei scored two goals to Denver’s lone tally from Brent Lutes to win the tiebreaker and the game.

The first of February brought the rematch with Missouri and it seemed like déjà vu for the first 13 minutes of the contest.  The Oilers looked disinterested and lethargic, and when 10 of the 13 minutes had gone by the Oilers saw themselves looking up from a 3-0 hole.  Only Ben Gordon’s power play goal at 15:25 provided the 4,401 fans in the BOK Center anything to cheer about in the game’s first period.

From there, the Oilers scoring lines came alive, erupting for 5 unanswered goals in the game’s two final periods.  What looked like a team not interested in winning a hockey game came alive, led by a goal from Drew Fisher and a pair of marks from Ryan Menei.  Jeff Buvinow and Sean Erickson scored the final two goals.  It was one of the best comebacks that the Oilers had pulled off thus far this season.

Last Saturday, February 2nd saw the return of the Wichita Thunder to the BOK Center for only the third time this season and going into the game Tulsa was just 2-5-0 over their only remaining rival from the original CHL.  Thus far, since the beginning of 2013 the Oilers had won but once against Wichita (a 4-2 decision on the road on January 18th) only to see the thunder post back-to-back one-goal victories on January 19th and 20th.

A lot was at stake on Saturday night for the Thunder as if they could defeat Tulsa in regulation time and Rapid City were to dispatch the Allen Americans Wichita would pass the Americans and take over the CHL’s top position.  The Oilers were the potential spoiler.

After the first period the score was deadlocked 1-1. Sean Erickson sent a marvelous pass from blue line to blue line to spring Ben Gordon for a power play breakaway to put the Oilers up 1-0 just four minutes into the contest.  Gordon, who tallied six points in Tulsa’s victory on Friday, followed up a brilliant performance by chipping in three more points (1 goal, 2 assists) on Saturday.  The Thunder then capitalized on a power play opportunity when Greger Hanson tied up the score with 6:08 left in the opening period.

The second period saw three more power play goals, two of which came from the Oilers.  Ryan Menei sent the puck into the net as it rebounded off Thunder goalie Torrie Jung right into Menei’s strike-zone.   Drew Fisher took a pass from Gordon and directed a one-timer past Jung to make it 3-1 with 12:43 left in the second period. With 45 seconds left in the middle stanza, Chad Painchaud beat Shane Madolora to keep Wichita within reach.

Wichita knotted the score 3-3 with 11:02 left in the third quarter on a Matt Robinson tip-in as the puck caromed off the post. The Oilers wasted no time in answering as Fisher connected with Menei 21 seconds later. The Thunder cleared their net and with 1:01 remaining Neil Trimm was wide open in front of the net to tap home a rebound and send the game to overtime.

A tense but scoreless overtime period gave way to the shootout, which would be the Oilers second in three games.  Michel Beausoleil, Menei, Gordon, and Fisher each sent the puck past Jung in the shootout to earn the extra point for the Oilers.  Menei took home first star honors and finished the affair with three goals and an assist.  The usual suspects, Ben Gordon, Ryan Menei, Drew Fisher, and Shane Madolora, have all played an integral role in the Oilers recent hot streak.  In the last three games of the Oilers current home stand, the top line trio of Gordon, Menei, and Fisher has combined for 20 points.  Madolora stoned three out of four Thunder attempts to cap off a brilliant night in which he had a season-high 46 saves.

The Oilers improve to 15-27-3 on the season with 33 points, but remain in the 10th place spot in the CHL.  They are 10 points behind the Quad City Mallard who are in 9th place and 13 points behind the Arizona Sudogs, who are in the coveted 8th and final playoff position.

Next up for the Oilers is a 7:05pm home game against the Rapid City Rush in the BOK Center on Tuesday night.