The Wichita Thunder headed to Oklahoma to take on the Tulsa Oilers in a contest that had huge playoff implications for both teams. The Thunder were four points ahead of the Allen Americans for third in the Mountain Division, and had a five point lead over the Oilers. Tulsa was on the outside looking in, and clearly needed a huge performance, and that is what goaltender Devin Williams gave his team, stopping 23 shots in recording his fourth shutout of the season to help Tulsa win 3-0. Roman Ammirato had 2 assists for the victorious Oilers.
It was an impressive performance by both goaltenders. Wichita had a great opportunity to take the lead when they had three great scoring opportunities just after the 10 minute mark of the first, but Devin Williams came up big each time, eventually covering up the puck after a save on Ryan Van Stralen.
The Tulsa Oilers would get on the board first at the 12:31 mark of the first period. Eric Drapluk fired a shot that deflected off a player and over the shoulder of Thunder goalie Nick Riopel for his seventh goal of the season.
The Thunder were trailing by one, but it could have been much worse had it not been for the unbelievable show that Riopel put on, especially late in the second period. At 16:21 of the second, Adam Pleskach took a one-timer that the Wichita netminder made an unreal save on. The rebound came to Garrett Ladd, who took a shot that Riopel came from out of no where to save at the far post. That rebound found itself on the stick of Pleskach again, who took another shot, but the netminder knocked it down and pounced on the puck to thwart the wild six seconds in front of his own net.
It would stay a one goal game into the third when Tulsa would extend their lead to two. A turnover gave the Oilers the puck in the Wichita end. Roman Ammirato passed the puck to Evan Richardson in front of the net, who was able to put the puck past Riopel for his eighth goal of the year.
With 7:19 left in the contest, the lead became three. With the faceoff in the Thunder end, Garrett Ladd won the draw to Charlie Sampair, who passed the puck to a wide open Pleskach, who was not going to be denied on this chance. He was left alone and knocked the puck in for his eighth goal of the year to make it 3-0.
Three goals were plenty enough for Williams on this night. The Oilers goaltender stopped 23 shots to earn his 15th win of the year. Roman Ammirato had 2 assists for Tulsa in his first game of the season. Despite taking the loss, Nick Riopel played extremely well in net for the Thunder, making 28 saves.
The victory moved the Tulsa Oilers just three points behind the Thunder in the standings. With the loss, Wichita now has a two point lead over the Americans. The Oilers will have a chance to make that deficit one when these two teams square off tomorrow afternoon. The game is scheduled to start at 4:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier