LOVELAND, CO.—The Tulsa Oilers (4-5-0) traveled to the Rockies this weekend for a two game set with the Colorado Eagles (3-6-0), a former rival from the Central Hockey League. The teams last faced each other in 2011, when they were two teams moving in opposite directions, the Eagles up, and the Oilers down. In 2015, at least early on, the situation was reversed.
The Oilers came to the games with a record of 4-3-0, riding a three game win streak while the Eagles were still trying to find a rhythm after starting the season 1-6. Both teams were searching for a good weekend and unfortunately, the Eagles were the team blessed with success at home in the Budweiser Events Center. Tulsa was denied two more wins and Colorado made strides to get back on track winning two straight wins after dropping five of their last six games.
Just prior to the trip to Colorado the Oilers AHL affiliate in Manitoba recalled Ben Walker and Brennan Serville, contract players to the Moose so they were two players short headed north.
Friday night, the Oilers took to the ice in Colorado for the first time in four years. It began somewhat inelegantly when with just 45 seconds elapsed, the Oilers Darian Dziurzynski and Colorado winger Everett Sheen set a physical tone early in the contest by dropping the gloves
The Eagles struck first at the 4:38 mark of the opening frame with a power play goal from defenseman Colin Joe. With Brandon Wong in the penalty box for slashing, Colorado forward Ludwig Karlsson found Joe open on the top of the near circle and the Edmonton, Alberta native whipped a snap shot through Tulsa goalie Jussi Olkinuora for his first goal of the season.
Dan DeSalvo responded for Tulsa late in the period. The rookie center won a faceoff in the Colorado zone and flipped a loose puck at the net that somehow found its way past Eagles’ netminder Kris Lazaruk. It provided a tie that lasted the remainder of the first and throughout the entire second period.
While there was no scoring in the second period there were fisticuffs, sparked by the rolling of Olkinuora in the 16th minute. Eagles’ defenseman Tiegan Zahn went barreling into the Oilers’ crease at 15:46 of the middle frame which sparked a fight and a series of penalties. Tulsa winger Brady Ramsay duked it out with Colorado’s Derek Rodwell while Oilers’ captain Nathan Lutz was called for roughing and Zahn was given a charging minor.
Two insurance goals by the Eagles sealed the deal in the third period. The Eagles Jordan Kwas was the third in line shooting on Olkinuora after Darryl Bootland and Jesse Mychan, and Kwas buried the puck to give the home team a 2-1 edge. Kyle Ostrow gave the Eagles a 3-1 cushion when he capitalized on a man advantage provided by an ill-timed delay of game penalty from Darian Dziurzynski.
One of the key elements that led to the Oilers losing were shots, or the lack of them. The Oilers shot the puck a pathetic 12 times compared to the Eagles 40. Lazaruk turned aside 11 shots for his first win of the season and Olkinuora dropped to 2-3 on the year despite a 37-save outing. The Oilers went 0-for-4 on the power play and rolled up 24 penalty minutes, their highest total of the season.
The teams faced off again on Saturday night and it was nearly a carbon-copy of Friday’s game, up to including first period glove dropping fireworks featuring Darian Dziurzynski and Colorado defenseman Tiegan Zahn just ten seconds into the game. Then, with Joe Sova in the box for holding the Eagles’ Collin Bowling let fly a strike from the blue line that blew past Oilers goalie Kevin Carr to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
The game took a nasty turn when the Eagles, who were well known for cheap shots when they were in the Central Hockey League, continued their claim to infamy when Jesse Mychan hit Dan DeSalvo and knocked him out. The deliberate hit sparked a fight when Jordan Kremyr leaped to his teammate’s defense. The rookie center that scored his first professional goal on Friday night, was down on the ice for several minutes before being assisted to the dressing room, done for the night.
Shortly after this incident Tulsa defenseman Matt Konan fired in a loose puck through Lazaruk to give the Oilers their first and only goal of the night when he jumped on a loose puck and punched it in to tie the game at 12:24 of the second period.
Ludwig Karlsson got the go ahead goal for Colorado on the power play after Oilers defenseman Dennis Brown was whistled for cross checking. The Swedish forward took a couple of steps off the boards and rifled a wrist shot over the shoulder of Carr for the go-ahead tally and his first goal of the season. Over the two weekend games, four of the Eagles’ five goals were scored on the power play. The Oilers went 0-for-10 with the man-advantage over the course of the two games and dipped to an overall record of 4-5-0-0.
Tulsa is 1-4-0-0 on the road this season and will attempt to end a three-game road losing streak in a visit to Wichita on Wednesday night. The Oilers next home game is next Friday at 7:05pm when they take on the Allen Americans.