TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Oilers took a 2-1 advantage to the final frame for a second-straight night to start the season, but this time they couldn’t slam the door shut to secure two points. The visiting Allen Americans struck four times in a wild, back-and-forth third period to claim a 5-4 victory inside BOK Center Saturday night.
Coming into the season, the Oilers knew they needed to improve upon their performance on special teams if they wanted to reach their full potential.
So far, not so good.
Tulsa’s rivals from the south found twine on a shorthanded opportunity in the first period on Saturday, then converted two huge power-play chances as part of its third-period rally. Allen finished the night 2-for-5 with the man advantage, while Tulsa went 0-for-2 to drop to 0-for-7 on the season. The Oiler penalty kill had killed the first eight opponent power plays of the year before allowing the Americans two on two tries in period three.
Special Teams also led to the opening salvo from Allen in the first, but this time it was a shorthanded opportunity that was buried by the guests.
The goal came with 7:21 to go in period one and Tulsa on their first power play of the night. Alex Guptill circled up the far boards from the low corner, then spotted Stepan Falkovsky streaking towards the slot. Falkovsky accepted the pass at the top of the far dot, eluded a man in the center of the circle, then whipped a shot over the glove of Tulsa tender Evan Fitzpatrick and into the upper-90 on the far side. The shorty was Falkovsky’s first of the year and made it 1-0, Allen.
The Americans looked set to take a lead to the first intermission, but with less than ten seconds left on the clock, the Oilers pulled even.
J.J. Piccinich picked the puck up as he crossed into the Allen zone, then used his body to shield his defender as he wheeled from the top of the zone towards the far dot. As he reached the circle he released a guided missile over the leg of Jake Paterson and just inside the post. It was the first Oiler goal for the former Newfoundland Growlers forward and set the game back on level terms.
The tight-checking start continued in the second, as the teams matched each other with eleven mostly harmless offerings on goal. The first two frames saw a determined defensive effort for both teams, with offenses being kept primarily to the perimeter of the zone and pucks being cleared before much-sustained pressure could occur.
The middle stanza’s only tally came just past the midpoint of the game, and it was the first ECHL goal for new Oiler Robby Jackson. It was a returning threat that set it up, however, as Ryan Tesink danced around a man at the near dot then circled and sent a crisp, cross-ice pass from the corner out to Jackson open in the low slot. The stick of an Allen defender thwarted his first attempt, but Jackson stuck with it and quickly sent a second shot that tickled twine before Paterson could react. The goal gave Tulsa a 2-1 lead to take to period three.
The tight-checking defensive efforts would disappear for both teams in the final frame, as overly-ambitious checks and an amped-up pace left defenders chasing instead of setting up in a position to take away the slot. The offenses were quick to pounce, leading to a wild six-goal frame that saw Allen pull even three times before finally taking the lead for itself.
The Americans would equalize for the first time less than two minutes into the frame, piercing the previously unblemished Oiler kill just 11 seconds after Danny Moynihan was sent off for tripping. The marker was set up by cross-ice pass from Tyler Sheehy to Olivier Archambault, who immediately directed the puck past Fitzpatrick to level the score at two and two with 18:12 still to play in the third.
Tulsa restored its edge just over six minutes later, as the dynamic early-season duo of Adam Pleskach and Deven Sideroff combined with Jared Thomas for a pretty goal. Pleskach sent a diagonal pass through the slot to Thomas, who quickly sent it across the bottom of the slot to a wide-open Sideroff. Paterson never had a chance to get across in time, and the Anaheim Ducks prospect fired home his third tally of the young season.
The Tulsa lead would last for nearly three minutes this time, but just past the middle of the period, Allen tied it up again, and once again it came while a man up.
It occurred with 9:02 remaining in the game and John Wesley sitting in the naughty seat. It was a well-executed and eye-pleasing play, as Brett Pollock sent the disc to Les Lancaster, positioned high above the slot along the blueline. He turned and slid a perfectly paced and placed pass right in the wheelhouse of Turner Ottenbreit, who blasted a one-timer that soared by the glove of Fitzpatrick before going off the elbow and in with a pleasing ka-tink to even the score at three.
The Oilers pulled ahead one last time with just 6:46 remaining, as Steven Ruggiero sent a seeing-eye shot through bodies and past a blinded Paterson for his first to make it 4-3 for the hosts.
It took just 17 seconds for Allen to equalize this time, however, as Mike Hedden sent the puck to the top of the crease where Spencer Asuchak won a net battle and knocked the puck home to make it a 4-4 game with 6:26 to go.
As time elapsed it looked like a seven-minute overtime might be in store for the first time in T-Town, but that was not in the script on this night.
With just 2:09 to go, a Falkovsky shot from the point was deflected by Hedden up just under the crossbar and off the inner pipe just inside the post and back out. The Oilers on the ice and their fans in the stands all yelled that it just went off the outer iron and stayed out, but review confirmed the call of goal on the ice and the Americans claimed a thrilling 5-4 victory.
With the loss, the Oilers fall to 1-1-0-0 (2 Points) on the season. The Americans, meanwhile, remain perfect early on at 2-0-0-0 (4 Points). Many think these are the top two teams in the Mountain and will battle each other for far more than pride this year, and if Saturday night’s contest is any indication, we are all in for a very entertaining ride.
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