One final spot remained in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the Central Division with two teams battling for that spot. With two games between those two teams, the Tulsa Oilers and the Wichita Thunder had to give their all with their first matchup last night. Tulsa needed a win to secure their spot, and the Thunder needed to win to stay alive.
Kevin Carr returned to the Tulsa net last night after suffering a skate laceration last week, while Grant Rollheiser was in net for the Thunder. Both goaltenders stayed perfect throughout the first period, with the Thunder taking a 12-7 advantage in shots.
The second period began in the Oilers’ favor, as Adam Pleskach scored his 39th goal of the season on a power play, just forty-four seconds into the period. That lead was short-lived however as Kurtis Bartliff banged home a rebound to tie the game at 2:19. The Thunder then took the lead at 6:48 with Danick Gauthier finding Mike Wilson in front of the net and making it a 2-1 game. Wichita kept control of the second period, putting 17 shots on net to the Oilers 8 shots.
Needing the win to clinch, the Oilers found their chance on a penalty kill with Scott Macaulay in the box. Kyle Bochek played an aggressive forecheck in the Thunder zone and it paid off as he made the steal on Eric Meland and put home the shorthanded goal to tie the game at 2-2 and swing the momentum in the Oilers’ favor.
The rest of the period remained penalty-free, with both teams trading chances and the goaltenders standing tall. It all came down to the final minute with only 42 seconds remaining on the clock, Adam Pleskach redirected a Jeff Jubinville shot and put the Oilers up 3-2 with his second goal of the night.
Pulling Rollheiser to try and get back level, the Thunder were unable to complete the feat and Kyle Bochek put the final nail into the Thunder’s playoff chances with the empty net goal at 19:50, giving the Oilers the 4-2 win and securing the Oilers playoff spot.
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Oilers will try and secure a higher playoff position in the division. They sit in fourth place right now and have a first-round meeting with the Allen Americans lined up. Their final game of the season is against the third-place Quad City Mallards, and is looking destined to determine the third and fourth seeds. A win against the Thunder on Friday dramatically improves their chances at the three-seed.