Winners of the Mountain Division last season, the Tulsa Oilers have gotten off to a relatively slow start by their standards. Finding themselves four games below .500 and following a lopsided 6-1 loss to the Utah Grizzlies the night before, the Tulsa Oilers had something to prove. But the Grizzlies are on fire right now and are perhaps the hottest team in the league. It would figure, then, that 60 minutes and even a seven minute overtime session wouldn’t be enough to decide the outcome. In a team loaded with stars such as Griffin Molino, Ty Lewis and Tim McGauley, it was relatively unheralded Grizzlie forward Mitch Maxwell who gathered the puck, skated down ice and blistered the back of the net to the delight of the 5,230 fans in attendance as Utah took game two of the three game set, 5-4.
“We’ve been finding ways to win games and we’re going to ride that hot streak,” Maxwell said. “It’s nice to score goals and help out. I was the lucky guy that got called on for that opportunity. You go through ebbs and flows and we’ve found our legs and aren’t going to take our foot off the gas.”
Indeed it was a closely contested back and forth contest throughout the night that witnessed four lead changes. Tulsa turned to none other than their team captain, Adam Pleskach, to lead the club with a pair of goals and what looked at the time to be the game winner in the third for a 4-3 lead. That was until Utah forward Ty Lewis, who has had about as memorable of a month as one can imagine with 10 goals, made it 11 with just 2:20 left in the game to force overtime.
The sheer athleticism of Molino exemplified itself beautifully throughout the night. Already in possession of a goal, Molino weaved through the entire Tulsa defense and charging toward the net, Molino fell to his knees but still managed to fire a backhanded shot. Although the attempt didn’t find the back of the net, the chaos created allowed Tim McGauley to finish Molino’s work, garnering a 3-2 lead for Utah.
The Grizzlies have been winning pretty lately, but in a contest in which they didn’t necessarily have their “A” game, it speaks volumes to the character of the club to collect a gritty win.
“I don’t know if we didn’t have it today but we battled tonight and you’re going to have these types of games,” head coach Tim Branham said. “It was a character win and no one panicked on the bench. I can’t say how proud we are of this group. It’s not always going to go your way but we had the crowd behind us and it’s a family in that locker room. You have to be able to find wins in various ways and we’re doing just that.”