Playoff Hockey. Say it again with me, Playoff Hockey. It's back and better than any of us remember. That is because we barely remember the good ol' days of Oilers dominance.
The Oilers conclude the season with a record of 35-25-6 for 76 points and third place in the Berry Conference. Only one point separated Tulsa and second place Bossier-Shreveport.
We last entered the Central Hockey League postseason in 2005. We last won a playoff series back in 1994. Yes, "we" have earned our rightful place back among the hockey elite. Last year fit under the category of too little, too late, too bad.
"That was the first time in my career as a head coach in seven years that I didn't make the playoffs and I don't want to let it happen again," said Head Coach Bruce Ramsay entering this year's season.
His squad did not let him down. The youthful tint to the roster with a slight infusion veteran leadership served the organization well. It was a stark contrast to previous Oilers teams. Less focus on the glory years and more focus on returning to glory.
For the record, the CHL playoff scenario has become a glorified youth league in some respects. They tweaked the playoff format this season to include all but two league teams. The CHL decided to be inclusive like the NCAA selection committee minus the backroom handshakes.
Hand it to the Oilers for earning their spot. Even in the old format they would be skating for the cup. Kudos for not taking the easy ice path.
The BOK Center shined bright during our NCAA madness experiment. Now the arena will see playoff hockey action for the first time. Sure, the Talons baptized the venue with a little AFL playoff battle, but it was short lived. Perhaps the Oilers and sustain a run for several weeks.
Winger Jack Combs was mentioned at the beginning of the season as one to watch. His progression and scoring touch would be counted on to make a serious playoff push.
Combs finished the regular season tenth in scoring in the CHL. He ranks second in goals scored. His plus/minus leaves room for improvement, but most of the Oilers do.
Chad Costello joined Combs in the top 10 list in scoring. The forward from Iowa mixed in 34 goals with 50 assists on the season. His plus/minus was just north of even.
In fact, only defenseman Tom Dignard and his +20 made the league's top-25 list. This could spell trouble as the Oilers vie for the Ray Miron Presidents' Cup.
Goalie Ian Keserich must catch fire. This is true at all levels of hockey, but especially with this particular Oilers team. Our goalie must channel his inner Martin Brodeur circa 2000.
Ice Flow. The BOK Center shined bright during our NCAA madness experiment. Now the arena will see
playoff hockey action for the first time. The Oilers conclude the season with a record of 35-25-6 for 76 points
and third place in the Berry Conference.
FILE PHOTO/AMY FROST
The team defense is solid, but just like an aging house the pipes start to drip from time to time. It's up to the owner or in this case the goalie to fix the leak immediately rather than have the basement flood.
Tulsa welcomes the sixth place Mississippi RiverKings to the BOK Center Thursday, March 31st for a best-of-five series. Game two is Friday. The teams move on to Mississippi for games three and four if necessary. A possible game five will be held back in Tulsa on Saturday, April 9th but let's hope we close them out in a clean sweep.
The Oilers played the RiverKings seven times during the season holding a 5-2 advantage. Combine the on-ice advantage with the home crowd advantage and we could return to Charlie Sheen territory, winning.
Tulsa's regular season ended this past Sunday with a thrilling overtime loss to the Allen Americans. It was a fantastic way to enter the postseason.
How can a loss be a good thing? It came against the cream of the Berry Conference crop. Allen was by far the top team in Tulsa's division during the regular season.
Now the Oilers can rest up and prepare for a raucous home crowd. There is no reason T-Town will not turn out in droves to cheer on the Oilers.
A late season addition which could pay huge dividends is Bates Battaglia. "Bates' playoff experience is a factor that's going to be very valuable for us in this year's playoffs," Ramsay said.
National Hockey League fans know the name. Now one of the leagues most ferocious competitors dons the Oilers sweater. There will be no playoff jitters for number 33. The question is how quickly can he gel with his new linemates.
Tulsa finished the season on a bit of an even skid. A win here or a loss there marked the schedule. Coach "Rammer" must coral the competitive juices and forge a unit to compete at the highest level against all competition. Maybe he should call the Butler or VCU coach?
Visit tulsaoilers.com for schedule information and visit bokcenter.com for ticket prices and information.
Visit the BOK Center on Thursday and Friday night for something we've long dreamt about. Say it with me again.
Share this article: