TULSA, OK—It was a game that was originally intended to be played as Oilers fans were digesting the Christmas goose, but in the end it was Mother Nature that laid an egg in dumping a foot or more of snow on T-Town and cancelled the game between the Wichita Thunder and the Tulsa Oilers. The game was rescheduled for Groundhog Day of all days and Oilers fans hoped that the Thunder would not have a case of déjà vu as the last time they played in Tulsa they came away with a 4-1 victory.
The 2009-10 season has not been good to the Wichita Thunder. The Thunder came into tonight’s game sporting and pathetic 4-32-3 record with only 11 points, dead last in the Central Hockey League. In their last game they took a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Rapid City Rush while Tulsa, sitting at 20-18-2 with 42 points sit only one point ahead of the Missouri Mavericks for the 5th and final playoff spot in the CHL North and only 6 points behind Mississippi for the 4th spot. The Oilers dropped a 5-2 decision at the hands of the defending champion Texas Brahmas on Sunday afternoon after posting one of the best offensive efforts the night before against the Riverkings in the amazing BOK Center with a 7-3 victory.
The Oilers needless to say are in a precarious position. The Mavericks could overtake the Oilers with a win tonight as they host the Colorado Eagles at home in the Independence Events Center. That fact was surely on the minds of Coach Bruce Ramsay’s squad as they took the ice against a team known for spoiling the Oilers playoff hopes over the years. The Thunder would open the scoring at 8:05 of the first when former Oiler Paul Kelly scooped up his own rebound off the pad of a sprawled Trevor Cann of the Oilers and shoved it int the net past him with Steve Makway assisting.
The Tuesday night curse began to show its ugly head in the first period. Although the goal Wichita scored was an earned one, defensive miscues allowed the Thunder to stand in front of Cann and fire shots seemingly at well. The shot count was 12-8 in favor of the Thunder at the first break, and clearly some defensive tweaking was needed if the Oilers. The Thunder, on the other hand, seemed to capitalize on Tulsa inability to get anything going and thus the lopsided shot tally and more important, the 1-0 score at the end of the first period.
The Oilers got the equalizer at 10:15 on an unassisted laserbeam of a shot from the top of the right circle by Troy Riddle. That was answered by Wichita at 15:40 by Kevin Cooper assisted by Paul Kelly and Jason Reece, allowing the Thunder to once again take the lead. The only excitement other than the two goals was a breakaway by Marty Standish on the Thunder’s Scott Campbell that he stopped, and a fight between Shane Foster of Wichita and Tulsa’s Derek Merlini.
The Thunder got started early in the third period with Kevin Cooper getting his second goal of the night and the power play and off assists by Paul Kelly and JR Bria at 2:03 to give Wichita a 2 goal advantage at 3-1. The Oilers Jake Riddle answered just 8 seconds later shorthanded to cut the lead to just one goal unassisted like his brother’s goal in the second frame. The goal brought the sleeping Tulsa team to life even down a goal.
If you are an Oilers fan you know that Wichita coach Jason Duda was well known for being on the ice, either on his face or his backside to draw penalties and it was obvious in the 3rd period that as the Thunder’s interim coach, he taught his players that tactic as several penalties were called on the Oilers when Wichita players would over exaggerate the severity of being knocked down to draw penalties. What made that worse was that referee Justin Greene fell for the poor acting hook, line and sinker. Penalties kept the Oilers shorthanded for four full minutes with either one or two players in the box. The saving grace of that was the fact that Wichita failed to convert on any of the extra man opportunities.
The Thunder, however, managed to sink a 190 foot empty net goal with 16 seconds left to seal the 4-2 victory, with Steve Makway getting credit for the marker. Wichita rises to their 5th win of the year with three of tose wins coming against Tulsa. They also get their second win in a row against Tulsa in their building, and their second in 10 games against Tulsa as well. The Oilers will regroup and travel to Independence for a weekend set of games against the Missouri Mavericks, who are now tied with the Oilers for the 5th and final playoff spot as of this writing having taken the Colorado Eagles to a shootout.
The Oilers return home to face those very same Colorado Eagles next Tuesday. Tickets for that game and every remaining Oilers home game can be purchased at the BOK Center box office, tulsaoilers.co, and all Reasors locations.
Photos by: Kevin Pyle
SHOTS ON GOAL
Wichita – Paul Kelly (Steve Makway) 8:05
Tulsa – Troy Riddle (unassisted) 10:15
Wichita – Kevin Cooper (powerplay) (Paul Kelly, Jason Reese) 15:40
Wichita – Kevin Cooper (powerplay) (Paul Kelly, JR Bria) 2:03
Tulsa – Jake Riddle (shorthanded) (unassisted) 2:11
Wichita – Steve Makway (emptynet) (unassisted) 19:44
Wichita – Kevin Cooper – (Hooking), 2 min, 1:48
Wichita – Joel Hanson – (Tripping), 2 min, 8:56
Tulsa – Dan Riedel – (Slashing), 2 min, 9:22
Tulsa – Jake Riddle – (Roughing), 2 min, 13:56
Tulsa – Derek Eastman – (Holding), 2 min, 17:41
Tulsa – Sean Erickson – (Tripping), 2 min, 5:48
Wichita – Shane Foster – (Fighting (Instigator)), 2 min, 8:31
Wichita – Shane Foster – (Fighting Major), 5 min, 8:31
Wichita – Shane Foster – (Fighting (Instigator) Misconduct), 10 min, 8:31
Tulsa – Derek Merlini – (Fighting Major), 5 min, 8:31
Tulsa – TJ Caig – (Hooking), 2 min, 8:44
Tulsa – Jeff Gumaer – (Hooking), 2 min, 12:54
Tulsa – Sean Erickson – (Slashing), 2 min, 14:21
Tulsa – Derek Eastman – (Holding), 2 min, 0:15
Tulsa – Tyler Butler – (Delay of Game), 2 min, 0:43
Wichita – Jim Jorgensen – (Hooking), 2 min, 5:48
Tulsa – Travis Banga – (High Sticking), 2 min, 13:31
Tulsa – Derek Merlini – (Holding), 2 min, 14:05
Wichita – Paul Kelly – (Holding), 2 min, 14:50
Tulsa – Derek Eastman – (Board Checking), 2 min, 15:03
Wichita 2 for 12 : Tulsa 0 for 5
GAME LENGTH: 2:34
REFEREE: Justin Greene
LINES 1: Josh Montgomery
LINES 2: Cory Piche
1ST STAR: Cooper, Kevin (WIC)
2ND STAR: Kelly, Paul (WIC)
3RD STAR: Riddle, Jake (TUL)