TULSA, Okla. – Mike Wilson recorded his 12th of the season with six minutes left on the man advantage that proved to be the difference as Wichita (26-28-7) held off a late Tulsa (30-28-3) charge and grabbed a 3-2 win at the BOK Center. Tomas Klempa and Erick Lizon also provided the offense as the Thunder move within four points of eighth place behind the Oilers for the final playoff spot with five games remaining in the regular season. Wichita is 6-5-2 against Tulsa this year and will finish out the StoneWolf Casino Cup series tomorrow night at INTRUST Bank Arena.
Tulsa started out with some great scoring chances, but Taylor Nelson had the answer at every turn. He made four tremendous saves while the Thunder got outshot 7-1 at one point in the first. He also got some help from Jon Booras, who slid across the goal line and seemed to get a piece of a Kyle Bochek chance. The two teams headed into the locker room scoreless after one with the Oilers firing 10 shots on net to Wichita’s six.
In the second, Wichita got on the board first. Lizon stole the puck on the right half boards, skated across the slot and his backhand got through Shane Madolora just 1:12 in. After a few coincidental minors were assessed, the Thunder finally got through against the Tulsa penalty killing unit which has been stingy over the last four games. Mike Wilson tipped a loose puck up the left boards and found Klempa in the slot. His 15th of the season gave the Thunder a 2-0 advantage at 12:09. Six minutes later, Nathan Lutz fired one from the deep slot that got through traffic and cut the lead to one on the power play. The Thunder headed into the final period up 2-1.
The physical battle continued in the third. Both teams had two power play chances in the period and cashed in. Mike Wilson recorded the game-winner at 13:59, collecting a pass from Matt Summers and buried it past Madolora from in-close and Wichita’s second power play goal of the night to make it 3-1. The Oilers answered quickly with their second tally on the man advantage just two minutes later. Lutz’s shot from the blue line got tipped in the air and found its way over Nelson into the net. The goal was awarded to Adam Pleskach at 15:56 and cut the lead back to one.
Tulsa would eventually pull Madolora and get the extra attacker on the ice. Wichita was able to clear the puck a few times from deep in the defensive zone. With 17 seconds remaining, Ben Gordon caught a long-lead pass, came in the zone and fed it to the slot. The re-direction hit the left post and Nelson was able to cover it with seven seconds left. Tulsa called its time-out and tried to set a face-off play. On the ensuing draw, Gordon fired a pass through traffic to Todd Robinson along the goal line, but he was denied by Nelson and the final horn sounded with the Thunder claiming a 3-2 win.
For the fourth-straight game, Wichita led by a 2-0 margin against the Oilers. The Thunder power play broke through against the Tulsa penalty killing unit, which allowed a goal for the first time in the last 27 penalties killed. Before tonight’s meeting, the Oilers didn’t allow a goal on the man advantage in 25-straight kills. Tonight, Wichita struck twice and scored two on the power play for the first time since March 4th against Rapid City.
Klempa tallied a goal and an assist, extending his point-streak to four games. In that span, he has three two-point contests and goals in three of the four outings. Lizon recorded his fifth of the season and needs two more to tie his career-high of seven. Nelson was named the game’s number two star, stopping 26 of 28 shots. Madolora suffers his second loss in his last three starts against the Thunder, stopping 20 of 23 shots he faced.
Wichita was 2-for-4 on the power play. Tulsa went 2-for-5 on the man advantage.
Wichita returns home to face the Oilers in the regular season finale tonight starting at 7:05 p.m., which is also Youth Jersey Night.
With Wichita Thunder team release
Contact the photographer: Ed.Bailey@prohockeynews.com