TULSA, OK–The classic matchup of the Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder played it’s 5th stanza tonight as the hapless Thunder team came into the amazing BOK Center riding a 22 game losing streak and a dismal 3-29-3 record, dead last in the CHL. The Oilers, on the other hand entered their headquarters 1-1 since the all-star break, a 17-15-1 record and the most distressing fact of all, not having won a home game since 2010 began.
The last time the Oilers and Thunder met was on January 8th in the Kansas Coliseum with Tulsa topping Wichita 41- in the last game the two teams would ever play there, (the Thunder open the brand-new Intrust Bank Arena tomorrow night hosting the Oilers). Against Wichita the Oilers have posted to date a 5-1 record so far, and most fans expected them to dispatch them with a quickness.
As it happens when a team fighting for a playoff sport plays one that was mathematically eliminated from contention before the holidays, overconfidence tends to overwhelm a teams sense of how to play the game, and that’s EXACTLY what happened tonight as the game ended with the score heavy on the Wichita side of the scoreboard. The only bright spot in the game was a goal in the first period from Dan Riedel at 19:34, who lifted the puck past Wichita goalie Scott Campbell on a neat cross-ice pass from Aaron Davis.
After that, the wheels came off the bus in dramatic fashion.
The Thunder continued a balanced attack that they began the game with while Tulsa chased and fought with the puck. It also didn’t help that the Oilers 9th ranked power-play unit looked anorexic, going 0-for-7 as compared to the Thunder’s 1-for-5 extra man chances. In the 2nd period the Thunder scored twice, the first at 7:54 on a goal from former Oiler Paul Kelly on a fat rebound past a sprawling Trevor Cann, and Ryan Campbell getting the second marker on the power play at the 11:46 mark.
The Thunder went up 3-1 on a rush by Shane Foster assisted by Kelly and Jim Jorgensen and with Cann on the bench Kevin Cooper backhanded the puck in sealing the game for the Thuder at 4-1 with but a minute to go on the clock. As so often happens in hockey, frustration overcame the Oilers in the dying seconds after the goal when fighting erupted.
Rick Kozak and Chris McAllister went first, Tyler Fleck and JR Bria went next, and then the heaviest penalties were handed in a 3rd bout between Jake Riddle and Shane Foster, who not only got the obligatory 5 minute major penalties for fighting, but also got game misconducts for secondary altercations. The final altercation came when Derek Merlini and Steve Makway duked it out and once that was broken up the clock ran out and the Oilers received derisive booing from their home crowd.
Wichita has now won 4 games on the season and two of them have come against Tulsa, one at home and one on the road. Tonight’s game also marks the first time the Thunder have scored more than a goal since December 12th and of course the game snaps a 22 game losing streak. The Oilers, meanwhile edge closer to .500 and did little to advance themselves out of 6th place in the CHL North conference standings.
There is some hope on the horizon as a trade was made this afternoon that would bring a two-time 20 goal scorer to Tulsa as Mark Kolanos was acquired for futures from the Texas Brahmas. Upon his departure from Texas Kolanos has 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 14 games, and his last two seasons were spent playing in Prescott Valley with the Arizona Sundogs.
Photos by: Kevin Pyle
The Oilers travel to Wichita to help the Thunder open the brand new Intrust Bank Arena tomorrow night at 7:30pm and return to the BOK Center for a 4:05pm matinee against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Tickets for that game and all Oilers home games can be purchased at the BOK Center box office, tulsaoilers.com, and all Reasors locations.