November 1, 2002
Tulsa on a tear
Loss on Halloween hardly puts a damper on club's strong start
By JASON COHEN
Tulsa finally lost a game on Halloween, but you won't hear
any of their fans complaining.
Oilers reeled off five straight wins to start the season,
a franchise first, and a huge improvement over last year,
when Garry Unger's club didn't win its fifth until Nov. 28.
slow start hurt all the more in March, when the Oilers finished
second in their divison, but missed the final Northern conference
playoff spot by just three points.
didn't have a bad team last year, so there wasn't an awful
lot that had to be done," says Unger, the former NHL
"Ironman" who is in his seventh season with the
Oilers (sandwiched around a foray in New Mexico). "I
just wanted to fill some holes, and put a lot of emphasis
far so good - the Oilers are second in the league in goals
allowed, 2.17 per-game. Goaltender Rod Branch, who won a championship
with Oklahoma City in 2001, allowed just four tallies in his
first four starts, including a shutout and a 2-1 shootout
GAA entered the realm of mere mortals on Oct. 29, when the
Oilers outlasted defending champions Memphis 5-4, ending a
10-game streak of RiverKing supremacy (including all nine
meetings last year). Back-up Jason Stone took the 5-3 loss
to Bossier-Shreveport on Thursday.
offense, Unger brought in forward Todd Marcellus, who racked
up more than 100 goals in three seasons with New Mexico before
spending the last two years in Germany.
leads the team in scoring (4Gs, 4As) as well as plus/minus
(plus-7). Rookie all-star Pat Hallet is back for a second
campaign, and Unger is also counting on more production from
Jamie Steer and Chris Johnston, both mid-season pick-ups last
year. "I knew it would be more comfortable for them,
starting here," he says.
can only get better, as Tulsa's power play is just 1-for-29.
the penalty kill makes up for that, allowing just two goals
in 39 attempts, with one shorthanded score. And speaking of
shorthanded, the Oilers have done all this without three players
- 20-goal tough guy Dallas Anderson is serving out an 11-game
suspension, while forwards Klage Kaebele and Derek Toninato
just came off IR.
been going with two lines, and sometimes with four D,"
Unger says. "There's no excuses, but once we get a full
line-up back, we'll be even stronger."
excuses necessary - you're in first place.
weekend Tulsa faces conference foe Fort Worth and arch-rival
Oklahoma City, both at home.
LAUDS KRALJ: Lubbock coach Bill McDonald makes a bold prediction
about rookie winger Matic Kralj.
things go right, he could be the first guy drafted out of
this league," the veteran bench boss says.
19, played Tier II in Brockville, Ontario last season, but
was not selected as an overager by the OHL. He found his way
to Lubbock thanks to fellow Slovenian Blaz Emersic, a second-year
pro who's currently the Kings' leading scorer (4Gs, 5As).
think I'm getting more experience here, and there are better
players here," Kralj told the Lubbock "Avalanche-Journal."
"In juniors, there are great players, too, just not as
Cotton Kings have a third Slovenian in goaltender Jure Penko,
a 2000 Nashville 10th round draft pick. Penko attended the
Predators' rookie camp, but with 1999 No. 1 Brian Finley already
working in the ECHL, got his ticket punched for Texas.
all great kids," McDonald says of the trio. "They
work hard, and they're a pleasure to coach."
ACTION: On Oct. 29, the C-Kings gave 3,000 school children
attending a special 11 a.m. contest a 6-0 win over Amarillo,
plus an added bonus - goalie fight.
DeGagne, pulled from the crease with the Gorillas trailing
4-0, got things going by bumping Lubbock captain Dave MacIntyre
as he headed for the bench.
sent Mike Brusseau flying across the red line. Once the requisite
fighting majors and game misconducts were handed out, Penko
came in and preserved the shutout.