Darcy Murphy Leads Tulsa Oilers to Season Opening Victory, 4-3
The largest opening night crowd in Wichita Thunder history was on hand at INTRUST Bank Arena Saturday night, as a new season brought a new sense of optimism as well. The Thunder have a new affiliate deal with the Ottawa Senators and a new head coach in Malcolm Cameron, who has been known to turn last place clubs into title contenders. The new sense of optimism had the 12,231 fans on hand looking for a great start to the season, but the Tulsa Oilers had others plans, getting 2-goals and an assist from Darcy Murphy in the 4-3 victory.
The Wichita Thunder took the early lead when Alex Krushelnyski took a great pass from Mitch Holmberg in the neutral zone and sped ahead of the Oilers defense on the breakaway. He made a nice move before sliding the puck under the pads of Tulsa goalie Jamie Phillips and 2:45 into the season the Thunder were up 1-0.
A little over seven minutes later the Oilers would tie the score. At 9:56 of the period, Wes Cunningham made a nice pass to Murphy, who split between two defensemen and put a back-hander into the net to make it a 1-1 game.
The first period would end with the score tied. The Oilers had been in command of the frame for the most period, outshooting the Thunder 15-10.
In the second period Tulsa took charge of the contest. Just 1:33 into the second period, Murphy would score again. Shawn Bates took Reid Halabi’s feed and put it onto Murphy’s stick. The defense collapsed on him quickly, pushing him away from the net, but he was able to get a back-hander up as he was falling down that found the back of the net to make it 2-1.
The play went back and forth as both goalies made some outstanding saves over the next 16 minutes. Finally, at the 17:36 mark, Tulsa extended their lead. Murphy passed to Bates who went over the shoulder on Wichita goaltender Scott Greenham with a backhand to make it 3-1. That would be the score after two periods.
After letting the Tulsa Oilers take charge in the second period, the Wichita Thunder came out fired up in the third. They dominated play, keeping the puck in the Tulsa end and peppering Phillips with what seemed like shot after shot. However, the goalie stood tall, stopping nine shots through the first 10 minutes. Finally, at the 11:03 mark they were able to get one past Phillips. Landon Oslanski’s shot from the left faceoff circle beat the Oilers goalie to make it 3-2.
The Wichita Thunder were right back in the game, but the enthusiasm would not last long. Just 44 seconds later Adam Pleskach put the lead back to two. In a scrum in front of the net, Pleskach gained control and slid the puck under Greenham for the goal to make it 4-2.
The Thunder pulled their goalie with 1:36 left and gained results right off. James Melindy’s shot was saved, but Jack Rodewald put it right back and into the net to make it 4-3.
In the last 90 seconds the Thunder feverishly attacked the net, but Phillips made save after save, stopping 15-shots in the final period of the game to preserve the one-goal victory.
The Wichita Thunder (0-1-0-0) will host the Missouri Mavericks Friday night. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier