The Tulsa Oilers have seen close games get away more than once in the final minutes. But in the biggest game yet this season, that was not the case.
Leading by a goal in the third period, the Oilers held the Idaho Steelheads scoreless, then added an empty-net goal at 18:17 to defeat Idaho 3-1 and win the best-of-seven ECHL Mountain Division finals 4-2 on Sunday night at the BOK Center.
The Oilers move on to play Toledo in the Western Conference Finals later this week.
Idaho pulled its goaltender with 2:20 remaining and mounted a furious six-man attack on Oilers goaltender Devin Williams, who stopped all attempts to get the equalizer.
With 1:43 remaining, Adam Pleskach added an empty-net goal — his third of the series — to seal the win.
“In the third period the guys played with a lot of poise,” Oilers coach Rob Murray said. “What you run into in those situations, guys get a little nervous and cause turnovers. I don’t think there was one turnover in the third period. We kept them at bay. They (Idaho) had one or two scramble chances, but other than that it was the most complete game we have played. It was great timing.”
The series went six of seven possible games — Murray said he expected no less.
“I have said it all along it was going to be a grind,” he said. “It is a battle every night. We won the battle and have come out of the West in the Mountain Division, a division that is as physical as you are going to get in this league.”
Tulsa will now get ready for Toledo, a team it has only played twice.
“I watched their game against Cincinnati on the bus,” Murray said. “They are a fast, skilled team and their goaltender was exceptional. We have seen them twice and that is a bonus.
“We are looking forward to it, but we are just going to enjoy it right now.”
Ryan Tesink put the Oilers on the scoreboard first with a backhand shot over Steelheads goalie Tomas Sholl just 2:41 into the first period. However, an Oilers turnover five minutes later allowed Idaho’s Robbie Payne to race in all alone on Williams and fire a shot that deflected off his skate and into the net to even the game at 1-1.
Some 10 minutes later, the Steelheads had another breakaway shot on goal, but this time Williams made the stop.
“One was a turnover and the second might have been a poor decision, but Willie (Devin Williams) made the save,” Murray said of the turnovers. “The guys persevered.”
In the second period, Pleskach put the Oilers up 2-1 when he skated in and fired from the right circle and fired at 10:02. It was his ninth playoff goal.
OILERS 3, STEELHEADS 1
Idaho 1 0 0 — 1
Tulsa 1 1 1 — 3
First period: 1, Tulsa, Tesink 3 (Drapluk, Kaspick) 2:41. 2, Idaho, Payne 1 (unassisted) 7:28. Penalties: Idaho, Petryk (high sticking) 8:13. Idaho, Sweetman (tripping) 12:08. Tulsa, Perfetto (high sticking) 16:02.
Second period: 3, Tulsa, Pleskach 9 (Kaunisto) 10:02. Penalties: Idaho, Moroz (unsportsmanlike conduct) 12:17.
Third period: 4, Tulsa, Pleskach 10 (Perfetto) 18:17 (en). Penalties: None.
Power Plays: Idaho, 0-1. Tulsa, 0-3.
Shots: Idaho, 12-8-8—28. Tulsa, 11-13-7—31.
Saves: Idaho, Sholl 10-12-6—28. Tulsa, Williams 11-8-8—27.
Referees: Jacob Rekuki, Andrew Bruggeman. A: 3,260.