TULSA, OK—The Allen Americans are a good hockey team. No question about it and arguably one of the more balanced teams in the ECHL and most certainly one of the most talented. They were a powerhouse in the old Central Hockey League and one of only three teams to repeat as champions of that league back to back, in the final two seasons of that league. They will punish any team that falls behind them in a game, and that is exactly what happened in Tulsa.
The final champions of the Central Hockey League visited the BOK Center Tuesday night to take on the first champions of the league, the Tulsa Oilers. It is a somewhat freakish week for the two teams as they will face each other in a three game series that will see two games in Tulsa and one in Allen this week. In addition to this week’s games the Oilers hosted Allen twice last week, a 3-1 loss a week ago and a 5-4 loss in a shootout on Thanksgiving night, so Tuesday’s game would be the third time in the last week the two teams squared off.
Tulsa came into the game fresh off a 3-2 win over Wichita on Sunday evening, while the Americans suffered a 3-1 loss to the Thunder on Saturday night.
One of the more ironic things that is going on this season is that had the Central Hockey League continued to exist this season and each of the surviving teams would have the same record, Tuesday night would have been a “Clash Of the Titans” of sorts, because both the Oilers and Americans are at the top of the ECHL Central Division. Tulsa came into the game with a record of 10-5-2 with 23 points and Allen an 11-4-0 record with 22 points.
The visitors struck first in Tuesday night’s game, at 9:23 of the opening period as Spencer Asuchak stepped out of the penalty and sped into the Oilers’ zone to receive a pass in the slot from Greger Hanson. Asuchak ripped a shot past Tulsa goalie Kevin Carr to give the Americans a 1-0 edge. The Americans rode that lead into the first intermission. The Oilers answered that with a goal at 2:08 of the second period by Steve Mele, who punched the puck in as Allen goaltender Riley Gill was trying to corral a rebound in his goal crease. The Americans answered Mele’s goal a little over a minute later when former Oiler Chad Costello scored on an odd-man rush to push the visitors ahead 2-1.
Adam Pleskach’s stick had been quiet for six games without scoring a goal, and that lapse ended when he smacked in a backhand shot with a little over a minute remaining in the game to knot the game at two. That tie, like the previous one did not last long as Costello got his second goal to put his team ahead 3-2, and once again the visitors had the edge at the second break. Tulsa had a lengthy man advantage to start the final period, but that meant little to former Oiler Jack Combs as he stole the puck at the Oilers blue line and head-faked Carr out of position on the breakaway and slipped the puck between his legs, putting his side ahead by two goals at 5-3 with just 1:46 elapsed in the 3rd period.
Tommy Mele pulled the Oilers to within a goal at 12:44 of the third period, but once again, a former Oiler…this time Gary Steffes…found the twine two minutes later off a backhand shot which would prove to be the game winner for the Americans. Americans defenseman Justin Baker sent a 200-foot clearing attempt at the empty Oilers net to remove even the faintest amount of doubt at 19:03 to give Allen a 7-4 win.
The Oilers were blanked on 10 power play opportunities, but they out shot the Americans 36-34. The Mele brothers were the stars for Tulsa on Tuesday night with Tommy posting a pair of goals and an assist and Steve recording a goal and a helper. Tulsa falls to 10-6-3 overall and 2-3-1 against Allen, who retake the division lead from the Oilers with a 12-4-0 record and 24 points.
The two teams will face off again on Wednesday night in Allen. Face-off is slated for 7:05.
The next home game for the Oilers will wrap the three game series with Allen at 7:35pm in the BOK Center on Friday night.