It seems like every game this season in the ECHL’s Central Division has had playoff implications. On a rainy Friday night in Tulsa…this one was no different.
Heading into the matchup between long-time rivals, Wichita held a four-point lead on Tulsa for third, while Rapid City held a scant one-point lead on Tulsa in the race for the fourth, and final, playoff spot.
For the 10th time this season, the Thunder and Oilers clashed. In nine previous meetings, the Oilers won 7 of 9.
For Tulsa, it was the first time they had been in the confines of the BOK center since February 10th, having just come off a lengthy 11-game road trip that featured stops in all 6 former-CHL cities.
Wichita, meanwhile, is in the middle of a 7-game road trip that features stops in Brampton, Tulsa, Quad City and Allen.
The game was tight-checking at the start and featured little physicality, typical for such a matchup between these two teams.
The Oilers got on the scoreboard at the 11:10 mark of the first, as Adam Pleskach capitalized on a 2-on-1 opportunity to beat goalie Grant Rollheiser.
The rest of the first period would remain scoreless, but not without the teams trading multiple good chances. Matthew Larke took a hooking with 32 seconds left in the first, but there Wichita had nothing doing.
Wichita opened the second stanza with a power play and came out with four shots on the nearly 90 second advantage, but could not convert. The Thunder finally got one past goalie Kevin Carr at 4:25 of the period, when Danick Gauthier scored his 25th goal of the season on a pass from defenseman Dan Milan, who was sent head-over-heels after making the pass. The second period would end up being Wichita’s period, as the Thunder dominated the Oilers on the shot clock 17-9.
Tulsa broke the 1-1 tie at 8:34 of the third period, as Adam Pleskach banged home a puck that looked like Grant Rollheiser had covered. Twelve seconds later, Brady Ramsay blasted one over Rollheiser’s left shoulder to give the Oilers a 3-1 lead.
Eric Tallent and Jared Walker dropped the gloves at 12:14…with Walker getting the better of that tussle. The story of the night from a Wichita perspective, was the play of the third line; Erick Lizon/Kurtis Bartliff/Jared Walker. The trio had multiple good chances on Kevin Carr and picked up key time late in the game, something that is not custom of a Kevin McClelland coached team when they are behind.
Tom Mele would cap the scoring for the Oilers, as he scored into the empty-net at 18:03 of the period to give the Oilers a 4-1 win over the Thunder.
The loss means Quad City will hold a three-point lead on Wichita, headed into their matchup Saturday night.
Tulsa has won 8 of 10 meetings against Wichita this season and the win was their first at home since January 30th. The Oilers will host the Brampton Beast Saturday night at the BOK Center and remain two points out of a playoff spot.