Several times this season, the Tulsa Oilers have come back from multi-goal deficits to win games. But there was no comeback Wednesday at the BOK Center.
In Game 7 of the ECHL Western Conference finals, the Oilers found themselves down 2-0 early in the first period. And the Toledo Walleye did not give in, defeating the Oilers 6-2 before an announced crowd of 3,821.
The Walleye will move on to play the Newfoundland Growlers for the Kelly Cup.
The mood was somber in the locker room after the loss, though coach Rob Murray expressed how proud he was of his team.
“We came up short, but I am tremendously proud of this team and what we accomplished this season,” Murray said. “Everything that they game me day-to-day, they were true professionals. They never gave up with their accomplishments, individually and as a team.
“It is hard to see that right now, but it was a fantastic season. Time heals and we will look back and see we did something special this season.”
It was the first time in 26 years the Oilers have advanced this far in the playoffs and they might have made it to the finals if not for falling behind early.
“They are a very hard team to play against when they get the lead,” Murray said about the Walleye. “They protect the lead very well. They got a two-goal lead and that is hard to come back from.
“We did not get any bounces tonight. Two or three times (Walleye goalie Pat) Nagle was looking behind him. He did not know where the puck was and we could not score.”
Tulsa pulled within two on a second-period goal by Jared Thomas, but they got no closer. The Walleye added two empty-net goals in the closing minutes as the Oilers attempted to mount a six-man attack.
“I thought the goal by Jared Thomas at the end of the second could get us a jump, but we did not generate anything off our power play in the third,” Murray said.
“The effort was there tonight. It just did not happen for us.”
An unstoppable Toledo offense and an ineffective offense by the Oilers resulted in the Walleye outshooting the Oilers 17-7 in the opening 20 minutes and taking a 3-1 lead.
Defensive lapses allowed David Pope to score on Tulsa goalie Ian Keserich at 4:10, then Zach Gallant slid a shot under Keserich at 9:29 for a 2-0 lead. Tulsa was not having much luck penetrating the Walleye zone until Steven Perfetto took advantage of a power-play opportunity at 12:24 with a shot from the left face-off circle to put the Oilers on the board. But Chris Crane put the Walleye back up by two with a goal at 17:14.
The Oilers came out with more intensity in the second period and kept the Walleye out of the net until 13:28, when defenseman Matt Register fired a blast from near the blue line that zipped past Keserich on the stick side.
WALLEYE 6, OILERS 2
Toledo 3 1 2 — 6
Tulsa 1 1 0 — 2
First period: 1, Toledo, Pope 4 (Jenks, Berschbach) 4:10. 2, Toledo, Gallant 5 (Hamilton, Register) 9:29. 3, Tulsa Perfetto 9 (Pleskach, Dostie) 12:25, (pp). 4, Toledo, Crane 2 (Moore, Sadowy) 17:14. Penalties: Toledo, Register (slashing) 11:35.
Second period: 5, Toledo, Register 4 (Moore) 13:28. 6, Tulsa, Thomas 3 (Pleskach, Drapluk) 19:33. Penalties: None.
Third period: 7, Toledo, Moore 7 (Sadowy, Obuchowski) 17:55 (en). 8, Toledo, Sadowy 8 (Tansey) 18:41 (en). Penalties: Toledo, Kotyk (boarding) 10:10.
Power plays: Idaho, 0-for-0; Tulsa, 1-for-2.
Shots: Toledo, 17-8-8—33; Tulsa, 7-8-11–26.
Saves: Toledo, Nagle 6-7-11—24; Tulsa, Keserich 14-7-6—27.
Referees: Andrew Wilk, Sean MacFarlane. A: 3,921.