WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder returned from their five-day Christmas break to take on the Tulsa Oilers at INTRUST Bank Arena on a raw, rainy night.
Wichita headed into the break losing seven of their last eight games, searching for any shred of momentum they grab onto. The Thunder headed into the seventh game of their 13-game season series with the Oilers, holding a 3-2-0-1 lead.
Early on, the rust was evident for both teams, as the play was very sloppy on both ends of the ice, but neither team could convert. Wichita’s Kenton Miller and Andy Huff both had breakaway chances on the same shift, but were stopped by Oilers goaltender Kevin Carr.
“We did have our chances, but we have to bury them,” Miller said.
In the waning moments of a power play late in the first, defenseman Dennis Brown wired one past Thunder goaltender David Shantz to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead. For Brown, it was his second goal of the season.
The second period was a quick-moving period that again featured a lot of end-to-end action, but not much offense. Michael Neal stuffed one by Carr to tie the game at 1. The goal was set up by a decent cycle from linemates Erick Lizon and Joey Sides. Neal’s goal was his third of the season and only his seventh point. Last season with Cincinnati and Kalamazoo, Neal had 19 goals and 39 points.
Wichita came out and pushed the action in the third period, firing the first six shots of the period. The Oilers did not get their first shot on Shantz until 8:22 into the final period. Despite power play chances for both clubs, the teams battled to the end of regulation to a 1-1 tie.
In the overtime, Wichita again forced the action, led by the smallest defenseman on the Thunder roster, Eric Springer. He was responsible for Axel Blomqvist, who is 6-foot-7, and dogged him all over the ice, eventually forcing Blomqvist into a penalty.
The result was a 4-on-3 Wichita power play, which didn’t generate much offense.
During his post game comments, Miller looked exasperated when talking about that opportunity.
“You want to score,” he said. “I had a shot right in the slot, but it was blocked. If I get that through, it has a chance of going in.”
McClelland cited the power play, which went 0-for-6 on the night, as the sole reason why Wichita was not victorious.
“We had our opportunities tonight,” McClelland said. “If we get one power play goal…we win the hockey game. Our power play has been atrocious this year.”
In the opening round of the shootout, Tulsa’s Brandon Wong and Wichita’s Logan Nelson each scored. Adam Pleskach’s roof shot in the top of the second round would be the difference, putting a damper on a stellar night in between the pipes for goaltender David Shantz.
Wichita now falls to 7-18-0-3 (17 points) and will play the Allen Americans on Sunday afternoon. Tulsa is off for a few days, before heading to the Black Hills to play the Rapid City Rush on New Year’s Eve.
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