Oilers Start Season With Bright Outlook
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
With more experience and talent than ever before, Tulsa Oilers coach Bruce Ramsay enters the 2012-13 Central Hockey League season with unbridled enthusiasm. Beginning his fourth season with the Oilers, Ramsay said he’s never had a brighter outlook coming out of training camp.
“Last year we had a lot of rookies, a lot of big question marks going into the season. This year we’ve got guys who have a proven past in professional hockey,’’ says Ramsay, whose team won both preseason games for the first time. “We haven’t had this much skill in quite a few years. Even the Chad Costello and Jack Combs team didn’t turn it on until the middle of the season.
“Ben Gordon, David Beauregard and Ryan Menei are proven scorers and Gordon and Menei are two elite players who should be at the top of scoring. Beauregard is in great shape and ready to play a leadership role. He’s had two fantastic years in Europe and wants to finish his career in Tulsa.’’
Tulsa opened the season with 10 new faces on its 19-man roster. Nine have had previous duty with the Oilers, and five are rookies. Ramsay praised newcomers Matt Register and Drew Fisher, plus goalie Dan Bakala.
“Register is a new young defenseman with good size and skills,’’ he says. “Fisher joined us at the end of last season and was really successful. He looks good on defense. Bakala played two outstanding games in preseason. We had very good goalies in camp and my toughest decision by far was which ones to keep. We had salary cap issues and had to release Larry Sterling, but Bakala is a special player with a bright future. I think he could move up this season.’’
Ramsay started the year with three lines that played well together in a 4-3 preseason victory at Wichita and a 4-2 triumph over newcomer Denver. The first line consisted of rookie Jeremiah Ketts, Gordon and Menei. The second was made up of familiar faces in Beauregard, Michel Beausoleil and Gary Steffes. The third unit listed rookie Matt Gingera, Ryan Cramer and Troy Ofukany. Steffes is the leading returning scorer with 58 points.
With the retirement of forward Marty Standish, more leadership falls on veteran defenseman and captain Tyler Fleck, D-men Sean Erickson and Gio Flamminio and returning goalie Ian Keserich.
Tulsa’s greybeards are facing a new-look which is still evolving as the season starts. The league is down to ten teams and Quad City is already under managerial and financial hardship, failing to complete camp in time for its season debut at Wichita. Tulsa replaced the Mallards against the Thunder on Oct. 19, and the team’s status was uncertain heading into the Oilers’ home opener against the Mallards on Oct. 26.
“Pro hockey is a tough business and Quad City has new owners,’’ notes Ramsay. “They’re going through a late start, but once they get the cobwebs out, they will be fine.
“I think ten teams is a good, healthy number for our league. We want to make sure every team is strong and financially viable so we can move on. Eight of the 10 teams make the playoffs and we had a very tough time last year with our schedule. I thought we had a successful year with a very young team, but this year we’ve set our sights a little higher.’’
Ramsay said more offensive capabilities result in playoff expectations. He said his defense is also strong, but the unit is young. He said it’s a matter of new guys filling the holes where needed.
In the meantime, Ramsay says that Allen, Rapid City, Wichita and Missouri will be the teams to beat. His goal for the Oilers is a simple one.
“I want a team capable of winning a championship, one that walks out of a rink every night with other teams saying ‘man, I’m impressed. What a damn good hockey team.’ I’m very optimistic.’’