TULSA, OK—After seeing the Tulsa Oilers performance on Friday against the Arizona Sundogs many fans were trying to think back to when they last saw their beloved hockey team win by such a large margin. Other teams have hung nine goals on the Oilers but with the exception of a 10-8 win over the defending champion Allen Americans way back on November 23rd, the closest Tulsa has come to ten goals was a 7-4 win over Wichita eight days before the Allen win.
The Sundogs have been riding a decent win streak of late coming into their game with Tulsa. The team from Prescott Valley, Arizona have won nine of their last 10 games. The Oilers had won four straight, including two big wins in Rapid City over the Rush and wins over the red hot Wichita Thunder and the Denver Cutthroats.
Oilers winger Michel Beausoleil opened the scoring on a power play breakaway at 3:56 of the first period but the Sundogs regrouped quickly with a pair of goals in just 20 seconds from Kevin Baker and Mark Isherwood. Arizona, 8-0-1 in its previous nine road contests, carried a 2-1 advantage into the second period.
Matt Ambroz, playing in just his fifth game as an Oiler, used a combination of touch and timing to bring the Oilers back to even. At 12:21 of the middle frame, Ambroz surprised Arizona defenseman Justin Pender by swooping in for a poke check directly in front of the Sundogs’ net. Pender lost possession and the puck slid past an unsuspecting Chris Rawlings to give Ambroz his first goal as an Oiler and provide a spark for the Tulsa offense.
Ben Gordon wristed in his 26th goal of the season at 13:25 to put the Oilers back in front for good and then set up Adam Pleskach’s one-timer goal at 15:59 to give the home side a 4-2 cushion. After a power play blast from Matt McCready cut the Oilers advantage in half, Menei answered with a heavy slap-shot from the wing just 18 seconds later. For the second straight game the Oilers turned a first intermission deficit into a second intermission lead and entered the third period with a 5-3 edge.
Menei broke the game open at 5:35 of the third when he rifled a shot through Rawlings on the short side off a two-on-one Oilers rush. Less than a minute had ticked off the clock when Todd Robinson, back in the Tulsa lineup after missing six straight games due to injury, slid the puck through Rawlings legs to push the Oilers lead to 7-3. Drew Fisher roofed a shot over the glove of Rawlings a mere 32 seconds after Robinson’s tally and mercifully, Rawlings was pulled from the game after allowing eight goals on 20 shots.
At 15:10 Menei capped off his hat-trick, Tulsa’s sixth hat-trick this season, by tucking a snap shot underneath the crossbar on the only shot Andrew Engelage would face in his relief effort.
The game wasn’t without its share of physical fireworks. Tulsa’s star pugilist Craig Cescon and Arizona’s Riley Emmerson squared off in the banner fight of the game, which featured a four-bout card. The two fighters remained on their skates but Cescon was awarded TKO after wearing his opponent out with a series of solid rights to Emmerson’s head. Other bouts featured the Ryan Barlock and Sebastion Geoffrion, Eric Tallent and Alex Velischek, and a brief four puncher between Tulsa newcomer Chapen Leblond and Michael Trebish.
The win lifted the Oilers to 24-22-3 on the year and to a perfect 3-0-0 record against Arizona this season. It also gave Tulsa their fifth straight win since February began. The win tonight advances the Oilers into a tie with the Brampton Beast for seventh place with 51 points in the CHL standings, lifting them out of the last playoff spot at least for now.
Tulsa and Arizona will face each other again in the BOK Center on Saturday night, then the Oilers will travel to the Sundogs home ice for a two-game midweek set on February 18-19.
Photo by Kevin Pyle.