WICHITA, KS – While the casual fan will see Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Tulsa as a continuation of the previous regime; the observant and knowledgeable fan will see Wichita’s third-period push to narrow the ultimate deficit to one and be encouraged about the future of this franchise.
Things got going quickly in the first for the Thunder. Alex Krushelnyski took a cross-ice feed from Mitch Holmberg and lifted the puck over the left shoulder of Jamie Phillips to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead.
“That was part of the game plan. We know that if we get a big goal with our home crowd behind us it would give us a big boost going through the first 20 minutes,” said defenseman Nick Trecapelli.
The plan was working to perfection until a Darcy Murphy scored his first of two on the night at 9:56 of the first period when he put received a cross-ice pass from Wes Cunningham and put it through Scott Greenham‘s five-hole to level the game at one goal a piece.
Then, things turned south for Wichita.
‘We laid an egg in the second,” said Thunder Head Coach Malcolm Cameron. Turnovers and Tulsa’s ability to hem Wichita in their end doomed the Thunder in the middle frame.
It started just 93 seconds into the period when a turnover led to the Oilers having a 2-on-1 on the end boards, and Shawn Bates fed Murphy for his second of the night to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead.
With just over 2:30 left in the second period, the Oilers would strike again. Bates skated through the neutral zone and put the puck by Greenham for his first of the season to give Tulsa a 3-1 lead.
But Wichita would mount a charge.
The Thunder had territorial control in Tulsa’s end for much of the period, and they were able to capitalize with just over eight minutes left. Landon Oslanski took a pass from Louick Marcotte and wired it by Phillips to narrow the lead to one.
But, with a young team, young mistakes will be made.
“The shift after a goal is the most important shift in the game,” Cameron said. “We turn around and turn the puck over and get scored on. That really sinks the air out of you.” That goal, just 44 seconds later, came on a rebound appeared that to clank off the post, but the goal was awarded to Adam Pleskach to make it 4-2.
Wichita would respond, however.
For the rest of the period, the Thunder hemmed Tulsa in their own end and the pressure paid off with just 88 seconds left. Jack Rodewald potted a rebound in the crease for his first of the season. The Thunder had chances in the last 20 seconds, but couldn’t find the equalizer and lost by the final of 4-3.
“We will try to be a little bit stingier on defense, I don’t like giving up four goals,” Cameron said. “I told the guys, all three of our goals tonight were hard working goals. Two of their four, were freebies. We had the puck, with no pressure and turned it over multiple times and got scored on. So if you can eliminate those, you will be in pretty good position.”
Cameron is encouraged by the fact that this team has been together less than a week and was able to put three goals on the board, despite the loss.
“Now we have a whole week, with a whole line up together to work on our systems, get acclimated and look at some video.”
Wichita will host the Missouri Mavericks next Friday night at Intrust Bank Arena.
Tulsa will host the Indy Fuel next Friday night at BOK Center.