Oilers Season Ends in Game 6 Overtime Heartbreaker
TULSA, OK – A red piece of hollow steel is all that separated the Tulsa Oilers from continuing their season. Moments after Oilers forward Ben Gordon cranked a slap shot off the crossbar, the Denver Cutthroats got the overtime game-winning goal from Garett Bembridge and ended the Oilers season with a 5-4 victory in Game 6. With the series-clinching win, the Cutthroats advance to the second round while the Oilers are left to dwell on just how close they were to forcing a decisive Game 7.
Denver defenseman Steve Kaunisto opened the scoring near the end of a tightly contested first period when he snapped the puck past Shane Madolora the 18:50 mark. Kaunisto’s first tally of the series gave the Cutthroats the first goal for the fifth time in six games against the Oilers.
Less than two minutes into the second, Cam Reid buried a wrist-shot off a three-on-one rush and pushed the Denver lead to 2-0. The Cutthroats advantage swelled to three goals at 5:44 after Troy Schwab’s half-slapper from just inside the Tulsa blue line somehow made its way through Madolora. Schwab ended the series with a team-high five goals and found the back of the net in five of the six contests. Gordon woke up the Oilers offense by tapping in a rebound at 12:44, Tulsa’s first goal since the second period of Game 4. The Oilers power play, mired in a 1-for-21 slump in the first five games, helped the home side get back within striking distance. At 13:55, Todd Robinson’s shot zipped past a screened John Griggs to give the veteran forward his first goal of the postseason and cut the Denver lead to 3-2.
A.J. Gale restored the Cutthroats’ two-goal cushion at 3:50 of the third period thanks to a blast from the left wing boards that snuck inside the far post. Showing the same character and resiliency they showed all season long, the Oilers simply refused to go away. Rookie forward Adam Pleskach cashed in on a Cutthroats turnover at 6:44 and the comeback was completed by first-year blue-liner Scott Macaulay at 9:22 of the final frame. Pleskach set up Macaulay from behind the net as the two Manitoba natives collaborated for the game-tying goal and brought the BOK Center crowd to its feet. In the final ten minutes of regulation, Madolora and Griggs traded highlight reel stops and after 60 minutes had ticked off the clock, nothing was decided.
Despite out-chancing the Fish in overtime, the Oilers could not solve Griggs or the iron. A hard push by the Oilers turned into an odd-man rush for the Cutthroats and the CHL MVP made the most of his opportunity to put the game away. Bembridge received a pass from Lee Moffie and slid a shot underneath Madolora that squeaked into the cage at 14:15 of the first extra session. The Cutthroats, victorious in overtime for the second time in the series, mobbed Bembridge while Madolora laid face-down in his crease in a state of disbelief and disappointment.
Tulsa outshot Denver 33-32 in Game 6 and fired more shots than the Cutthroats in five of the six games. The two clubs finished tied 18-18 in total goals scored and three of the Oilers four losses in the series were by just a single goal. Gordon led the Oilers with four playoff goals while his line-mate, Ryan Menei, ended the night with three assists and finished as the team’s point-leader with two goals and six assists in six games. The Oilers ended the series 2-for-23 on the power play and still haven’t prevailed in a best-of-seven playoff series since defeating the Oklahoma City Blazers in 1994.