For the first time since 2011 the Tulsa Oilers hockey club will be part of the Central Hockey League post season. The team secured their place at the dance after defeating the Wichita Thunder 5-2 and the St. Charles Chill 6-3 over the weekend.
The Oilers traveled north to Wichita for the final time this season to take on their only remaining rival from the early years of the CHL, smarting from a 3-2 loss in the BOK Center on Friday night. After the Thunder took the early lead on a quirky goal by Ian Low in the 12th minute of the first period, the Oilers quickly took control and despite surrendering a goal to the Thunder late in the second period, they never looked back.
Todd Robinson scored twice, once in the second and third periods, with the goal in the third period being the game winner, Blair Macauley added a goal and Matthew Larke, who was claimed off waivers from Rapid City last week added a pair of goals. Larke also added a pair of assists, as did Michel Beausoleil. Tulsa finished the season series with Wichita with an 8-5-1 record, and sets the all-time, 22 year series at 122-104-25.
In all it was a great response to the loss incurred on their home ice and set the stage for a playoff clinch on home ice on Sunday afternoon against the Chill, who in their inaugural season in the Central Hockey League have never defeated the Oilers in four games played this season.
The fifth meeting would be no different, as things turned out.
Then Oilers took the lead in the games 15th minute when Ryan Menei scored his fifteenth goal of the season, scoring the first goal in a game for the first time in nine games. Adam Pleskach scored another goal with a shade over two minutes to go in the opening period to give Tulsa a two-goal spread at the first break.
In the second period the Chill managed to find the twine behind Oilers goalie Shane Madolora twice, the first coming at 2:31 when Britt Ouellette fired the disc into the net, and at 9:51 Ryan Berard scored on the power play. The two St. Charles goals bookended a pair of goals by the Oilers, the first coming from Adam Pleskach at 8:07 assisted by Todd Robinson, and Michel Beausoleil netted his 30th goal of the season shorthanded at 9:33 to give the Oilers a 4-2 lead at the second intermission.
Pleskach scored his second goal of the game on the power play at 1:23 of the third period when he batted the puck in past Chill goaltender Robby Moss to extend the Oilers lead to three goals. TJ Moor then raced in on Madolora and slid it past him to bring the Chill to within two goals, but that was as close as they would get to Tulsa as Eric Tallent scored on the power play with a shade over two minutes remaining, and when the horn in the BOK Center sounded, the Oilers had punched their ticket to the 2014 CHL playoffs.
The Oilers know they have a date for the dance, the big question is who that partner will be. As of this writing the Oilers are currently tied with the Brampton Beast with 67 points. The Beast and the Arizona Sundogs were idle today and their schedule through the finish line seen the Sundogs play Wichita three times in a row at home, while Brampton will play Rapid City three times in a row. Tulsa will take on what will likely be the regular season champion Missouri Mavericks on Friday and Saturday and the Denver Cutthroats on Saturday. The games with the Mavericks are the very likely playoff preview games, but things could change.
One more home game remains for the Oilers, a 4:05pm meeting with the Denver Cutthroats next Sunday, March 28th in the BOK Center.