TULSA, Okla. – Not even the force was enough to help the Tulsa Oilers dig out of a two-goal hole in the third period on Friday night. On “Star Wars Night” at the BOK Center, the Oilers dropped a 3-2 decision to the Wichita Thunder in front of 6,482 fans, many dressed up as their favorite characters from George Lucas’ legendary films. Tulsa lost to Wichita for the third time in its last four games and now holds a narrow four-point lead on the Thunder for the eighth and final CHL playoff spot.
The Oilers put together a string of quality scoring chances in the first period but Thunder goalie Taylor Nelson bailed out his side with several spectacular stops at close range. The rivals remained scoreless through the duration of the first period.
Just over a minute into the middle frame, Wichita forward Erick Lizon backhanded a shot from between the circles that fluttered past Tulsa netminder Shane Madolora to give Wichita a 1-0 edge. For a seventh consecutive game, the Oilers surrendered the first goal of the contest as Lizon netted his fifth tally of the season. Tulsa’s impressive streak of 26 successful penalty kills was broken at 12:09 of the second period when Tomas Klempa blasted a point-blank one-timer through Madolora to give the Thunder a 2-0 cushion.
With Wichita forward R.G. Flath in the box for roughing, the Oilers were able to cash in on the power play late in period. At 18:38, Nathan Lutz’ blast from the blue line squeezed through Nelson to cut the Thunder lead to one. Lutz recorded his eighth goal of the season and his third in the last three games.
It remained a 2-1 Wichita advantage until 13:59 of the third when the Thunder power play connected for the second time in the game. Matt Summers snapped a pass from the corner to the top of the Tulsa crease that was tapped home by defenseman Mike Wilson. Less than two minutes later the Oilers responded with their second power play goal of the evening. Another Lutz rocket from the point was re-directed by Adam Pleskach who snapped a seven-game goalless drought and pulled the Oilers back within striking distance. Still trailing 3-2 in the closing seconds, the Oilers nearly found the equalizer when Blair Macaulay appeared to tip the puck through Nelson’s pads. Somehow, Nelson was able to keep the puck in front of him and Tulsa’s comeback bid came up empty.
The Oilers, 7-5-1 against the Thunder this season, have lost five of their last six games. The Tulsa lineup was bolstered by the return of forward Todd Robinson and defenseman Scott Macaulay who both returned after lengthy stints on the IR. Robinson assisted on both Oilers goals while Macaulay logged heavy minutes and helped strengthen the Oilers defense corp. Newly signed winger Matthew Larke made his Oilers debut only to watch his new club fall to 0-3-1 in its last four home outings.
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