As soon as Patrick Kane scored the game winner against the Philadelphia Flyers back in June, the hockey season was done and all of the players around the globe were left with one thing on their minds, next season. Well next season is here. As I walked into the Oilers Ice Center on Friday evening for the fourth straight season I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, not to the extent of the boys of course, but it was the start of what should be a great season. After little over a year lay off, the Rampage have their original head coach Chad Macleod back behind the bench. With a pedigree of an old school disciplinarian and extensive hockey knowledge backing him, Coach Macleod has the bar set very high. Well I don’t need to tell you, just look at the website and the advancements page. Coupled with the hardest working general manager in hockey, Julie Wilson, the Tulsa Rampage have never been more focused. “I don’t just teach the boys how to play hockey, but to be better men as well”, Coach Macleod added. After this weekend those words rang true throughout the old barn.
The Rampage first opponent was the Texas Junior Brahmas, a new team to the MidWest Division of the WSHL. Veteran forward Bobby Watson had a goal and two assists to lead the Rampage to a 5-2 victory. Penalties were not uncommon Friday night as both teams chalked up a lot of infractions making for a game barred with whistles. “It’s hard to get a rhythm out there” said Rampage assistant captain Shane Khalaf, “game is too chopped up.” Falling behind by a goal the Rampage went on to a four goal outburst and didn’t look back. Goalie Eric Messer made 30 saves in the victory. The team looked well conditioned and outworked the Brahmas. There was a lot of hard hitting and banging the boards with a very physical effort by the Rampage. Saturday however was a different story.
Texas goalie, Anton Olsson made 52 saves as the Brahmas bounced back with a 5-3 victory. Watson was the catalyst once again for the Rampage with 2 of the 3 goals and Khalaf had a goal plus a helper of his own. The Brahmas looked well rested and came out hitting. The Tulsa team fought back, but were unable to withstand the visitors on this night. Going a man up late in the third period, Coach Macleod decided to pull Eric Messer to get more of a scoring chance. This chance would not come, Jordan Gnatowsky was able to break past the blue line wall put up by the defense and score on the empty net. With the help of great goaltending they were able to preserve the win tying the series up at one game a piece.
As Sunday’s game approached I remember seeing Coach Macleod with a bag of ice being held to his head. Seems coach took a piece of lumber to the head during the very physical Saturday night game. Then I had spoke with Julie Wilson, she had been at the rink till one am still grinding out her duties, both friends of mine looked spent, it was like they were out there fighting with the team. Just one of my mental images that stuck with me on the weekend, but like any tough player they fought through it. The team would do the same. The Rampage got out to an early lead thanks to defensemen Elliot Langford’s first period tally. There was a parting shot as time was winding down with D man Matt Boente. He was able to take the puck across the blue line and go bar down on Olsson pushing the Rampage to a 2-0 lead going to the break. The second period was scoreless and Tulsa goaltender Chris Dylewski was strong in between the pipes. In the first period Dylewski made an incredible glove save which got the crowd completely jacked up. When the third period rolled around fatigue did start to set in for the home team, the Brahmas were able to tie the game at two with tallies from Ryan Dietl and Curtis Kort. But just as the tide was turning Tulsa stepped up their efforts with a second wind and lit the lamp or lack there of at OIC with goals from Mario Dalesandro, Mitch Suchomel, and Watson. Afterword was a celebration on the ice as all Rampage players just gang tackled number 14. As the two teams shook hands respecting each others efforts the Tulsa crowd gave them a standing ovation. After months of waiting for the puck to drop the opening weekend was all I thought it would be and more, great hockey, great people to work with, and the atmosphere with the great fans. Last season was a down year for the Tulsa Rampage, but what I found out about the start of this season is that the old times with coach Macleod and GM Wilson are only getting better. The team will be off this weekend, but will resume the next one at home vs New Mexico. Unti then good talk, see ya out there.