For the Tulsa Oilers, the playoffs can be described by two words: missed opportunities.
During the five games of the Northern Conference Semi-Finals on Saturday, the Oilers had plenty of opportunities to get back into the games and into the series, and they failed to capitalize. Such was the story of game five, a game in which it appeared early on that the Oilers would hold off elimination and force a game six in Denver.
"They came out and got three goals to start the period, and we were in shock," Eagle center Riley Nelson told The Fort Collins Coloradoan.
Within the game's first 14 minutes, Tulsa got three quick goals past Eagles goaltender Tyler Weiman, who was pulled in favor of Paulo Colaiacovo. The Eagles, who initially appeared shell-shocked from the quick scoring frenzy, managed to muster a counterattack to give them some momentum going into the second.
After Lee Ruff opened up the Eagles' scoring on a rebound with 3 minutes remaining in the first, Greg Pankewicz tipped in a goal with only 1.8 seconds remaining in the first.
By the second period, Colorado was in full swing offensively, getting goals from Zirnis, Lephart and Pankewicz. The Oilers managed to get a late goal from Doug Pirnak, but that was the end of their offense for the evening.
Colorado sealed the deal in the third with goals from Nelson and Tobler to end the game 7-4. Colaiacovo got the win for the Eagles, stopping 16-of-17 shots.
"We went down 3-0, but the feeling in this locker room was that we're going to do it; we're going to finish it off," Tobler told the Coloradoan. "There was no holding their heads. Everybody was up; everybody was motivated. We showed tremendous resiliency."
Colorado had a lot of ground to make up for after a disappointing loss in game four Friday night. Zirnis started it off with a quick goal past Bill Ruggiero, and it appeared the Eagles were ready to end the series and get some much-needed rest.
But it was not to be, as the Eagles managed only one more goal the rest of the game.
In a game that turned into an all-out brawl Friday, Colorado eventually gave up six goals to an Oilers team that looked as hungry as they did in game one. Near the end of the game, the Eagles' frustration at their embarrassing performance was palpable; all five skaters for each team were locked into separate fights, and Ruggiero and Weiman fought at center ice.
After penalties and ejections were handed out by referees following the fighting, Colorado had Colaiacovo in net and only nine skaters left.
"I think it was just pure frustration," Kris Mallette told the Coloradoan. "They played a really good game tonight and got up on us early. They kept coming, kept coming. And with every other guy in this room it was just pure frustration."
The Eagles' next opponent is the winner of the Bossier Shreveport/Wichita series. Wichita leads the series 3-2, with game six taking place Monday at 5 p.m. in Bossier City, La.