The final memory of 2014 will not be a pleasant one for the Tulsa Oilers. In front of a crowd of 6,838, the second-highest attendance of the season, the Oilers let a 3-0 first period advantage slip away in a 5-3 setback to the Rapid City Rush. The Oilers were outscored 4-0 in the third period and suffered their seventh loss in the last eight games.
Through the first half of the first period it looked as though the Oilers were going to rout the Rush as they put up three goals in the span of four minutes. Jeff Jubinville got the scoring started at 5:07 by tipping a Nathan Lutz slap shot past Rush netminder Danny Battochio. At 7:54, Tommy Mele drove toward the Rapid City net from out of the corner and bounced a puck over the left pad of Battochio to give Tulsa a 2-0 edge. Less than two minutes later, Jubinville netted his second goal of the night on the power play when he snapped a shot over a fallen Battochio to give his squad what appeared to be a decisive 3-0 advantage. Jubinville, who had the first three-point night of his career in Allen last Friday, recorded his first multi-goal game as a pro. Battochio gave up three goals on just six shots and was replaced in net by Raphael Girard.
Rapid City began chipping away at the Oilers' lead at 3:14 of the second period. Daniel Barczuk stuffed a loose puck past Tulsa goalie Brady Hjelle for his sixth goal of the season to put the Rush on the board. The Oilers carried a 3-1 lead into the third period and carried a 7-0-2 record when leading after 40 minutes.
Former Oiler Sean Erickson brought the Rush within a goal when he tapped a puck past the goal line at 3:13 of the third period. Barczuk tied the game at 3-3 at 7:52 and the momentum stayed firmly on the side of the visitors for the remainder of the evening. A turnover in the Tulsa zone set up Rush forward Kyle Stroh for the go-ahead goal at 9:16 and J.P. Chabot scored the fifth unanswered Rapid City goal with a power play tip at 16:07. The Rush won for the second time in three visits to the BOK Center and tasted victory for just the second time this season when falling behind through two periods. Rapid City outshot Tulsa 20-8 in the final frame and 40--25 for the game.
Barczuk led Rapid City's offensive effort with two goals and an assist while Girard played the final 50 minutes of the game without a blemish on his record. After starting the night in a backup role, Girard made 19 saves on 19 shots and earned his second win of the season. Adam Pleskach assisted on all three of the Oilers goals and ended the night with a +2 rating as the Oilers dipped back below .500 (14-15-3) and lost for the fifth time in their last six home games. Hjelle turned aside 35 shots in his sixth loss of the season.
The Oilers went 1-for-4 on the power play and have now scored a power play goal in three consecutive contests. Rapid City finished 1-for-3 with the man-advantage and improved to 7-6-1 on the road.
The two sides will meet again on Saturday and Sunday at the BOK Center but up next for the Oilers is a battle against the Brampton Beast on Friday, January 2 at 4:05 p.m. on home ice.