TULSA, OK — After four games in the “L” column, the Oilers needed a big win on Sunday and they got it, blanking the Wichita Thunder 5-0 in a Sunday afternoon matinee game in front of 5,889 at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa.
Goaltender Colin Stevens pitched a 23-save shutout and forward Kale Kessy turned in his first professional hat trick as the Oilers brought a four-game losing streak to a halt.
The Thunder, conversely, played a disjointed game in which they couldn’t get much going, and generated few quality scoring chances. After Sunday’s game the Oilers are in command of the season series with their oldest and deepest rival, leading eight games to one with five games left between them.
It was a game the Oilers really needed, not only from a playoff positional standpoint but a confidence boosting one as well.
The hard work ethic that head coach Jason Christie has been preaching about in the last four games finally paid off.
“We have been working hard like that, but I like how we capitalized,” Christie said. “Give the guys credit. They played all three games hard like that. We were getting the breaks tonight.”
Kessy scored an even strength goal to open the game with a one-time blast in the slot in the first period, a power play goal in the second period and shorthanded tally to end the game in the third.
“It feels good to definitely get a win,” Kessy said. “I think we have been playing well and personally I feel we have been outplaying the other teams. I think we have put up 50 shots in the last four games, so we were bound to get a win. We know we have a great team and have to just stay with it. I think we played all 60 minutes. We just have to take this into practice this week and keep the momentum.”
Kessy stated that a simplified game combined with being in the right place at the right time helped him get his first hat trick of his professional career.
“The first goal, (Adam Pleskach) made a good pass and I just shot as quick as I could,” Kessy recalled. “The second one was just good power play execution. We got the puck to the net and it was just laying there. The last one was just a good job by the defense clearing it. The defender was coming back and decided to just shoot the puck.”
Stevens blanked the Thunder one night removed from a game where he watched the third period from the bench in the 6-2 Saturday loss to Indy.
“I think collectively as a team we all came out today,” Stevens said. “That is the best 60 minutes we have played that I can remember. We needed one and got the job done today.”
Stevens also credited his teammates for their help in his 23-save shutout of the Thunder on Sunday.
“The guys in front of me made my job incredibly easy. Hats off to those guys. Any individual success is a reflection of the team in front of you as a goalie.”
Tulsa earned two critical points on Sunday night and improved to 25-26-5-0 with 55 points. They remained in sole possession of fourth place in the ECHL Central division, opening up a three-point lead over Kalamazoo, who lost Saturday night to the Wheeling Nailers 5-4 on Saturday night.
The Oilers will close out the eight-game, month-long home stand beginning with a game with Allen next Friday night.