It’s October in Tulsa and with the changing of the leaves, the cooler weather and the days getting shorter it’s time for Tulsa Oilers Hockey. Tonight at 7:30pm in the BOK Center the team will begin its 24th consecutive season of operations and their second season in the ECHL taking on the Wichita Thunder.
Change is the key word because this season will be very different indeed. A new coach, a full time NHL/AHL affiliation and a house cleaning has taken place in the Oilers organization. As a result, the usual buzz that surrounds the coming of the second year in the ECHL in Tulsa has a decidedly different vibe.
The off season was a very active one. Shortly after the Oilers were eliminated by the eventual Kelly Cup Champion Allen Americans, Bruce Ramsey announced that he was resigning as head coach of the Oilers in order to become the assistant coach to the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Ramsay is joining his friend Todd Nelson as he assumes the head coaching duties after a four season tilt with the now-defunct Oklahoma City Barons.
In six seasons with Tulsa, Ramsay posted a 185-178-35 record as the Oilers head coach and led the team to three playoff appearances in 2011, 2014 and 2015. Former Ontario Reign head coach Jason Christie was named head coach in late July. Christie is the eleventh head coach in the modern era of the Tulsa Oilers and is the second winningest head coach in ECHL history with 483 victories. He needs only nine wins in Tulsa to pass John Marks to become the winningest head coach in the history of the league.
During his four years in Ontario, the Reign won no less than 40 games and last season nearly eliminated the Americans in the ECHL Western Conference finals.
Shortly after Christie was named head coach the Oilers announced that they were accepted into the farm system of the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers would become the Jets “AA” affiliate behind the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Jason Christie’s naming as the Oiler head coach helped solidify the affiliation as Ontario was the Jets affiliate in the ECHL for a number of years.
Christie already had several Oilers returning to the team from the 2014-15 squad, including forward Adam Pleskach and defenseman Nathan Lutz. In all ten Oilers returned to the team for the 2015 training camp. Of those returners six players made the team as of this writing.
Several new faces are in the Oilers locker room this year. Most of the team consists of professional hockey players, most of whom have experience with AHL and ECHL teams. The parent club sent several players including goaltender Jussi Olkinuora and forward Ben Walker.
Olkinoura, a 24-year old that hails from Helsinki, Finland served under Christie with the Reign.
In the 2014-15 campaign, Olkinuora appeared in 43 regular season games for the Reign and posted an outstanding 27-9-6 record with a 2.41 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. During Ontario’s run to the Western Conference Finals in the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs, Olkinuora played in 12 games and registered a 2.31 goals against average, fifth best among all playoff netminders. Over the last three seasons, Olkinuora, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, has appeared in 15 games in the American Hockey League with the St. John’s IceCaps.
Walker, a 22-year old center from Edina, Minnesota, appeared in 36 games last season for the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL and posted one goal, three assists, and 16 penalty minutes. Prior to his rookie season, Walker, 6-foot-0, 190-pounds, played three seasons of major-junior hockey for the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League. In the 2013-14 campaign, Walker recorded 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) in 71 regular season appearances for the Royals and another six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in nine playoff games.
Changes were being made all the way up until literally the 11th hour and the roster was finally solidified late Thursday afternoon. Tulsa will take the ice with 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies—23 players’ altogether.
4 D Nathan Lutz
6 D Matt Konan
8 D Trevor Campbell
10 F Brandon Wong
11 F Dan DeSalvo
14 D Tom Kroshus
15 F Kyle Bochek (21-day injured reserve)
16 F Brian Nugent
18 F Adam Pleskach
19 F Brady Ramsay
20 F Brent Darnell
21 F Ben Walker
22 F Darian Dziurzynski
24 D Brennan Serville
25 F Mathieu Gagnon
27 D Justin Mansfield
30 G Jussi Olkinuora
37 G Kevin Carr
73 F Phil Brewer
95 F Igor Vladykovskii (reserve)
F Radoslav Illo
F Jordan Kremyr
D Joe Sova
So now it’s down to the drop of the puck tonight at 7:05pm in the BOK Center. Tickets are on sale now at the Oilers office located on 46th Street between Mingo and Memorial or at the BOK Center Ticket Office located at 3rd Street and Frisco in Downtown Tulsa.