WICHITA, KS – It almost happened.
The young, increasingly brash Thunder almost coughed up a three-goal lead late in the third period of Friday night’s game against the Tulsa Oilers.
“We just had a thirty-second blip and I could see it coming on the bench,” head coach Malcolm Cameron said. “The guys had stopped moving their feet and you can’t do that against a skilled team like Tulsa.”
The result was a pair of shorthanded Tulsa goals in the span of 25 seconds that brought the Oilers within one goal. The first coming when Adam Pleskach won a foot race to the puck, then fired a backhanded shot that beat Scott Greenham blocker side. Shawn Bates cut the lead to one after forcing a turnover, then using his speed to split the difference on two defenders who were converging on him.
Soon after the goal, Cameron assembled his players at the bench and calmed them down. The result would be an Alexis Loiseau goal with 91 seconds left to salt the game away and give Wichita a 5-3 victory over the Oilers at INTRUST Bank Arena. The loss was also the first of the season for Oilers’ goaltender Jamie Phillips, who entered the contest with a perfect 10-0-0 record, plus goalie of the week and month honors.
“It’s tough to shut the engine off,” Cameron said. “I lived in Saskatchewan for three years where it was minus-60 in the winter and when the engine starts it whines. Once you shut the engine off, she’s awfully tough to get her going. So, I constantly have to push these guys to get the engines going.”
Wichita got on the board first in the contest. Mitch Holmberg, who had been tended to on the bench and locker room just minutes before, gathered a drop pass from Nick Trecapelli and put a wrist shot below the blocker of Jamie Phillips to make it 1-0. The Oilers tied the game a little over a minute later as Adam Pleskach put home his own rebound with a baseball swing, picking the puck out of the air.
In the second, Holmberg scored his second of the contest as he got to a rebound at the blocker-side post and lifted a backhand past Phillips to make it 2-1.
Loiseau extended the lead to 3-1 at 8:04 of the third with a wrist shot from the right circle. Trecapelli made it 4-1 at 13:44, getting a nice pass from Holmberg in the slot and lifted it past Phillips.
Despite the effort and result, Cameron feels like his club gave the Oilers some momentum heading into tonight’s rematch at the BOK Center.
“You win a game 4 or 5-1 and even though they had some quality chances they think ‘Wow, this is a tough team to score on.’ But when you give up some soft goals, they now have a belief that ‘Hey, we can come back on this team’ and we don’t want that. We want to be stingy,” Cameron said.
NOTES: Holmberg and Loiseau each had three-point nights…Loiseau is on a five-game point streak and now leads the Thunder with 11 points (5G, 6A)…Louick Marcotte had a pair of assists and a fight in last night’s game, leaving him a goal short of his second Gordie Howe hat-trick (had one last year with Adirondack)…Trecapelli scored his first goal of the season.
The Thunder continue their 3-in-3 with a trip to Tulsa tonight at the BOK Center. Wichita will host Fort Wayne for the only time this season tomorrow afternoon at INTRUST Bank Arena.