The lone preseason exhibition game was held in front of 1,911 fans at the Thunder’s training facility in Wichita. The Oilers and Thunder battled through three periods and a scoreless overtime frame only to have Wichita forward Matt Summers score the game winner in the shootout.
It’s an understatement to say that historically, the Tulsa-Wichita rivalry is a violent one going back 22 seasons and the first meeting of the season between the two teams was no exception. Less than five minutes into the game, in what is sure to be the first of many scraps between the Oilers and Thunder this season, Tulsa rookie Kyle Leahy squared off with Wichita forward Jared Walker.
Seven minutes later, the Oilers opened the scoring thanks to two players seeing their first professional ice time. University of Connecticut product Evan Carriere, buried a feed from fellow rookie Mike Hartviksen at the 11:21 mark of the first frame. Just 42 seconds after Carriere’s strike, Burke Gallimore responded with a goal for the Thunder and the rivals were deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the second period.
The home side took its first lead of the game late in the middle frame when Paul Kurceba tallied on the power play at 16:09 and the Thunder carried a 2-1 advantage into the third. Before the second period expired, Tulsa rookie Brett Skalski traded punches with Thunder defenseman Garrett Gruenke in the second and final fight of the afternoon.
Second-year defenseman Ryan Barlock pulled the Oilers even at 5:55 of the third period and Tulsa regained the lead at the 12:15 mark when third-year winger Ryan Cramer found the back of the net. The visitors lead evaporated less than four minutes thanks to the second goal of the game from Gallimore.
A scoreless overtime period gave way to the shootout and each of the five Oilers shooters were denied by Thunder netminder John Griggs.
In goal for the Oilers, Ross MacKinnon turned aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced while Joey Perricone made five saves on seven shots.
The preseason loss capped off a week of camp that leaves Oiler head coach Bruce Ramsay with a lot of tough decisions to make. Training camp will end on October 17th with the first games of the regular season to be played against the Denver Cutthroats on October 18th-19th.
Ramsay began trimming his roster on Monday. The roster for Friday’s regular season opener in Denver continued to take shape as the Oilers waived forwards Evan Carriere, Mike Hartviksen, Nic Power, and Patrick Schafer along with defensemen Jarkko Leppanen and Andy Willigar. The Oilers have 24 players remaining in camp (13 forwards, 8 defensemen, 3 goaltenders).
“For the guys that went out there and played in Wichita, I thought they battled extremely hard,” said Ramsay. “I liked the attitude and character the guys showed and it made my decisions that I have coming up very, very tough over the next couple of days.”
While drilling and scrimmaging tells a coach a lot about the basic skill set of a particular player, seeing a player’s capabilities in a real game situation shows the true depth of a player’s talent.
“In reality, you need that game situation where you’re facing somebody else, you’ve got your blood boiling and it’s a real hockey game,” stated Ramsay. “That was great for our players to experience and great for me as a coach to watch.”
Ramsay is tasked with putting a winning team on the ice this season, and he has not only his camp roster to draw from, but others as well. “There’s a lot of good hockey players out there and my job is to put the best possible team on ice,” Ramsay said. “If I see something better than what we have here, then I need to bring those guys in to strengthen our club.”
The 2013-14 CHL season faces off in Denver on Friday and Saturday night, with their home opener taking place at 7:35pm in the BOK Center against the Allen Americans. Tickets are on sale right now at the BOK Center Box Office at 200 S. Denver and at the Oilers office on 46th street between Mingo and Memorial.