TULSA, OK—The last time the Oilers had a crowd in the BOK Center near 7,000 fans they won in a shootout against the Wichita Thunder in October. On Tuesday night against the Rapid City Rush, the Oilers saw a three goal lead evaporate eight minutes into the final period, then the visitors mount two more goals and go on to win 5-3 in front of 6,838 stunned fans.
It was an embarrassment to a team that had less than an epic month in December, where they lost six games in a row through Christmas, ending with a dramatic regulation defeat of the ECHL Central Division leading Allen Americans on Sunday evening.
It was the Oilers who struck first in the game’s opening period, the first goal coming at 5:07 when Jeff Jubinville tipped in a rocket of a slap shot by Nathan Lutz past Rapid City goalie Danny Battochio to give the home team a 1-0 lead. At 7:54 Tommy Mele charged in toward Battochio and lifted the puck at his left pad. It ricocheted and landed in the net to extend the Tulsa lead to 2-0. Just short of two minutes after that Jubinville scored what would be the Oilers final goal of the game when he snapped the puck home behind Battochio to give the Oilers a very comfortable three-goal cushion.
Tables often get turned in hockey games when a starting goalie is pulled when he is struggling, and Rapid City head coach Joe Ferras did exactly that when Battochio had surrendered three goals on just six shots in less than 10 minutes in goal.
He sat his starting goalie in favor of reliever Raphael Girard and the effect of doing that was Girard locking the Rush net down against any and all challenges the Oilers would send their way through the remaining 50-odd minutes in the game.
The five unanswered goals from Rapid City started at 3:14 of the second period. Daniel Barczuk stuffed a loose puck past Tulsa goalie Brady Hjelle for his sixth goal of the season to put the Rush on the board. Despite the ruining of the shutout by the Rush, the Oilers still held a two-goal, 3-1 lead at the end of 40 minutes and in the 2014-15 season to date, they had a near perfect 7-0-2 record when leading after two periods.
No one told Rapid City that, or if they did know they ignored it because they simply unloaded everything they had in the final 20 minutes. Former Oiler Sean Erickson brought the Rush within a goal when he tapped a puck past the goal line at 3:13 of the third period. Barczuk tied the game at 3-3 at 7:52 and the momentum stayed firmly on the side of the visitors for the remainder of the evening.
Kyle Stroh put the go-ahead goal in past Hjelle at 9:16 and J.P. Chabot hammered home the fifth and final unanswered Rapid City goal to put the game out of reach with a little under five minutes to go in the game. It was a complete disintegration of the Tulsa defense that permitted the Rush to fire 20 shots at Hjelle during the final period (Tulsa only managed 8), in route to a 40-29 shelling of the home team.
The loss drops the Oilers to 14-15-3 on the season. It was the team’s second straight loss to Rapid City, with the first being a 4-0 shutout in December 19th. The Oilers and Rush will become well acquainted with each other as five of their next six games will see the two teams clash through the ECHL All-Star break.
The next home game for the Oilers will be this Friday night against Brampton, whom they defeated 4-1 on December 13th.