By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
No matter how the Tulsa Oilers fair against Bossier-Shreveport in their second round of the Central Hockey League playoff series, the 2010-11 season can be counted as a success.
Only two years since the franchise’s all time worst season, coach Bruce Ramsey finally led the Oilers into the CHL’s promised land. Numbers tell much of the story.
This season, the team reached post season play for the first time in six years and won a series for the first time in 17. The recently completed regular season left the Oilers 35-25-6, their fifth-best showing in the CHL’s 19 seasons and their best since 2002-03. And there’s still more to come.
Now completing his second year with the Oilers, Ramsay has bought a house in Tulsa and he’s truly made a difference in the franchise. He seems to have the respect of his players and they believe in his system. Despite spurts of inconsistency, the team always bounces back, as evidenced in the 3-2 opening round series victory against Mississippi.
With the home-ice advantage against the RiverKings in the best-of-five series, Tulsa quickly lost it. Appearing dazed and confused in game one at the Center, the Oilers were clearly not prepared for the opener, losing 7-3. Despite dropping the second game 3-1 at home, there was obvious improvement from the night before.
Mississippi Captain Derek Landmesser and his cohorts lost six of eight regular season games to the Oilers, but they appeared ready for a sweep going back home to the DeSoto Civic Center for game three. Trailing 3-1 late in the second period, Tulsa continued to show improved play and rallied to win 4-3. The trend continued in games four and five as the Oilers’ performances improved throughout the series.
Down 0-2 and on the ropes, perhaps only a few diehards gave Ramsay’s team a chance. Somehow, he motivated the Oilers one shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time. And the best team finally won. Give credit to goaltender Trevor Cann who displayed his talent in winning all three games. Kudos also go to linemates Chad Costello, Jack Combs and Mike Beausoleil.
Costello, the team’s offensive ace throughout the regular season, gained momentum and spurred the Oilers to victory. Costello finished the series with 11 points, best in the among all scorers, and closed the regular season with 84 points, the most since Todd Marcellus racked up 93 in 2002-03. Combs’ 40 regular-season goals were the most since Marcellus in that same 02-03 campaign.
With a 26-37 all-time playoff record, the Oilers enter the Bossier-Shreveport best-of-five series without home-ice advantage and as a slight underdog. And with team captain Tyler Fleck and Beausoleil talking retirement, Ramsay and his club hope to give them a going away gift, a berth in the division finals.
Tulsa won just one of three meetings with the Mudbugs this season, but considering the Oilers’ comeback against Mississippi, they have apparently hit their playoff stride. At this point in the post season, there is only one certainty, Ramsay and his team can’t fall behind 0-2 and expect to beat Bossier-Shreveport. Judging by the Oilers’ recent rally and their road prowess all season long, they won’t go down without a fight.