Wichita steals Oilers Thunder

Phil Brewer (white jersey) battles a Wichita Thunder player after a faceoff.

Phil Brewer (white jersey) battles a Thunder player.

TULSA, OK—The Tulsa Oilers began their 24th consecutive season as a professional franchise with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Wichita Thunder.

The Oilers battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the dying minutes of the third period, only to have an errant bounce off the end boards give the Thunder the opportunity to take the late lead and they exploited it.

After the Oilers’ Brady Ramsay had netted the equalizer with just 1:28 to play, Thunder forward Kenton Miller had a loose puck land on his stick at the side of the Oilers net and he slipped the disc in the net behind Tulsa goalie Jussi Olkinuora. Olkinuora had attempted to play the puck when the Thunder sent it deep into the zone, but it careened off a protruding seam on the end boards and caught him by surprise. It left him out of position and allowed Miller the goal.

The need for late game heroics on the part of the Oilers was the result of the team slacking off some in the second period, allowing a surging Wichita Thunder to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead in the 11th minute. Miller opened the scoring for the visitors when he deflected a shot from Wichita defender Dan Milan past Olkinuora at 11:00, which was followed up 31 seconds later when Andrew Deluca scored his first goal as a professional by firing the puck into the top corner of the net.

Bryan Nugent skates in on Thunder goalie David Shantz.

Bryan Nugent skates in on Thunder goalie David Shantz.

Oilers forward Ben Walker has the distinction of scoring the first goal for Tulsa in the 2015-16 season, shoveling the puck past Thunder goalie David Shantz at 11:16 of the third period.

The loss ruined the debut of Tulsa head coach Jason Christie, who wasn’t very happy with his team after the game.

“In the second period they took it to us.” Coach Christie said, “I don’t think we hit anybody all night. It was a tough game to watch there in the second but I thought we came on in the third but it was a little too late. The guys were battling in the third to tie it and I wish we had that fire the full 60 (minutes).”

Both goaltenders faced a surprisingly low 24 shots each in the contest, with Olkinoura making 21 saves and Thunder goalie Shantz turning aside 22. Since moving to the BOK Center in 2008 the Oilers ae 3-5-0 in eight seasons.

From here the Oilers will travel to Allen to take on the defending ECHL Champs tonight at 7:05 pm, then return home on Sunday afternoon for a 4:05 pm tilt with the Americans.

Photos: Kevin Pyle for Tulsa Today.