The last time the Tulsa Oilers lifted a championship trophy was 22 years ago. Just three years removed from a quarter century.
It’s hard for the younger generation of the current Oilers fans to fathom, but then again, some of the younger fans of the team were still in diapers back in the days of Mike Berger, Luc Beausoleil, and Tony Martino’s reign over the frozen floor of the Tulsa Convention Center, (now known as the Cox Business Center).
So it goes without saying that a championship for the Oilers is WAY overdue.
The Oilers clinched their berth in the ECHL post-season over the last weekend and when the dust (snow?) finally settled head coach Bruce Ramsay’s hockey club found themselves in the last playoff spot with the Allen Americans, the final champions of the Central Hockey League standing in their way.
Tonight is the first time the Oilers have ever met the Americans in post season play. They will face them tonight and Wednesday night on the road in Allen, and then return home for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday night games in the BOK Center.
In the regular season, Tulsa faced Allen 17 times. Tulsa was 5-10-2 overall against Allen and the Americans claimed victory in each of the last four meetings. Six of the 17 encounters were decided by a single goal and the Americans finished the season series with an overall edge of 77-51 in total goals scored. Both clubs enter the postseason with momentum as the Oilers went 10-4-2 in their final 16 games of the regular season and the Americans played their final 11 games without a regulation loss (9-0-2).
In the playoffs, history does not favor the Oilers.
Since the championship triumph in 1993, the Oilers made the playoffs 11 more times and have only advanced past the second round once, and that was in the title defense year of 1994 when they were swept by the Wichita Thunder 4-0 in the Central Hockey League finals. From that point, Tulsa was taken out of the playoffs in the first round 10 times including last year when the Denver Cutthroats eliminated the Oilers in overtime in game six.
The only other time Tulsa has ascended out of the first round was in 2011, when they defeated the Mississippi Riverkings in the first round and were eliminated by the Bossier Shreveport Mudbugs, the eventual champions of the Central Hockey League that season.
The Allen Americans bring considerable firepower to the table. Allen was the highest-scoring team in the ECHL (4.0 goals per game) and finished with the most penalty minutes (22.8 per game) in the league. Chad Costello, a former Tulsa Oiler who was aboard for the playoff run in 2011, recently was awarded the ECHL’s scoring title with 125 points during the 2014-15 ECHL regular season, anchors the Americans offense. Having defeated Allen five times in the regular season confirms that the Americans are not unbeatable, but it is going to be an uphill climb all the way.
Tulsa has a good bit of ammunition in their quiver. Right-wing Adam Pleskach ended the regular season on a five-game point streak (4 goals, 3 assists) and put up at least one point in eight of the last nine games. In addition, Pleskach finished his sophomore campaign with 41 goals, the second-highest total in the ECHL. Drew Fisher tied for third in the league scoring race with 77 points and finished second in the ECHL with 59 assists.
Backstopping the Oilers between the pipes, Kevin Carr set a new franchise record with a goals against average of 2.73 for the 2014-15 season. The previous mark was held by Trevor Cann who posted a 2.81 goals against average for the 2009-10 season. The 24-year old rookie was in net for 30 of the Oilers’ 37 wins this season and played 70-percent of the total minutes. Carr allowed one goal or fewer in nine of his final 12 appearances of the season.
So what will it take for the Tulsa Oilers to defeat the Americans and rise out of the first round?
They will have to play their game, not get sucked into chasing the Americans while they played theirs, and send a message. Simple tasks, to be sure, but it is doable if the Tulsa club keeps their heads about them. A strong physical game along with intelligent and creative offensive effort will bring success to the Oilers in the first round, despite the monumental effort they have in front of them.
Tickets are on sale now for the two games the Oilers will have on their ice this Friday and Saturday night. All of the games will be carried on the internet at tulsaoilers.com with Rob Loeber providing the play-by-play call.