WICHITA, Kan. – With strong goaltending from Stuart Skinner and some unlikely offense from Ralph Cuddemi, Wichita cruised to a 3-1 win over the Tulsa Oilers.
The two teams spent a majority of the opening period feeling each other out, Tulsa coming into the game with five of their major players called up to AHL clubs during the last week.
The Wichita Thunder got things started offensively at 17:48 of the first with a feat that had not happened in 76 days, a goal by Cuddemi, just his 19th of the year.
Wichita added a second tally at 18:59, scoring on a powerplay as Lane Bauer tipped in a slap shot by Keoni Texeira.
After the first period, Wichita led 2-0 on the scoreboard and 15-9 in shots.
The second period was a classic example of high-energy, scoreless, defensive hockey. Despite strong chances for both sides, each getting multiple powerplay opportunities. Skinner and Devin Williams did what they had to do to keep the other team off the scoreboard. After the second period, Wichita held their lead steady at 2-0.
The third period would be the big test for Wichita as Tulsa put 15 shots up during the period. Many of these came on forced turnovers by Tulsa.
Cuddemi would find the score sheet yet again at 9:58, another powerplay goal for Wichita.
Skinner’s shutout bid would end just 1:54 away from completion as Tulsa scored on a powerplay. The powerplay opportunity came on a questionable interference penalty on Jared Wilson in the corner near Skinner. It was Scott Henegar who made it happen, finding just enough space outside Skinner’s blocker.
Tulsa proceded to pull Williams to get the extra attacker but the clock hit triple-zero before they could find the back of the net again.
The Oilers’ offensive surge in the third was enough to take the final lead in shots, 30-24.
Wichita finished 2-for-4 on the powerplay while killing off four of Tulsa’s five powerplay chances.
Skinner stopped 29 of the 30 he faced, his least amount of goals allowed since Thursday, Dec. 27th, when he stopped all 31 shots at Tulsa in a shutout victory.
Adam Pleskach did not record a point for just the fourth time in his last 13 games.
With the win (and a loss by Kansas City), Wichita’s tragic number for playoff elimination continues to sit at four. Currently, Wichita (63 points) sits six points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mountain Division behind the Kansas City Mavericks (69 points).
Wichita’s playoff quest continues tonight in Allen, Texas when the Americans and Thunder go at it for the final time inside the Allen Events Center this season. Currently, Allen leads the season series, 7-2-0-2. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm. You can catch Matthew Harding on the Sin Bin pregame show at 6:40 pm.