The Wichita Thunder slayed a huge dragon in their season-opener Friday night — defeating the Tulsa Oilers. Last season, the Oilers went 12-2-0-0 against Wichita, and was a vital reason why the Oilers made the Kelly Cup playoffs.
While the two teams still have a dozen meetings left, most coming in the season’s first half, Wichita’s win last night certainly was a huge boost to a team who saw the BOK Center as a house of horrors in recent seasons.
Not to be overshadowed, was the start of the Jason Christie era in Tulsa. Christie entered last night’s game nine wins shy of becoming the ECHL’s all-time wins leader among head coaches.
The teams played to a scoreless and evenly played stalemate in the first period.
Wichita came out in the second and applied sustained pressure to the Oilers, outshooting them 13-3 in the middle stanza. Kenton Miller broke the scoreless tie 11 minutes into the period, as he tipped a Dan Milan shot past goaltender Jussi Olkuinora to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead. Just a half-minute later, Anthony Deluca unloaded a wrist shot that popped the water bottle behind Olkuinora to double the Thunder lead. It was Deluca’s first professional goal.
Tulsa would make it interesting, though, as Ben Walker stuffed home his first goal of the season during a net-mount scramble at 11:17 of the third period to bring the Oilers within one goal. The equalizer came with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, when Brady Ramsay poked the loose puck behind David Shantz to level the game at 2.
Wichita’s Kenton Miller would have the final answer on the night, however, as he beat Oilers defenseman Tom Kroshus to the loose puck and slid it by Olkinuora to give Wichita a 3-2 lead.
For Shantz, it was his first win in a Thunder uniform and first ECHL win since March 26, 2011 when he was with the now defunct Victoria Salmon Kings.
Wichita will open their 2015-16 home schedule tonight at Intrust Bank Arena against the Quad City Mallards. Face-off is set for 7:05.